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tv   Bill Hayes How We Live Now  CSPAN  September 26, 2020 8:00am-9:01am EDT

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cash prizes, and the deadline to submit video to january 20th, 2021. for competition rules, tips and more information on how to get started go to our website, .. >> national book festival hosted by the library of congress. starting at 7 p.m. eastern, it's your chance to talk with gail collins and jon meacham, see author discussions with many others. also this weekend on our author interview program "after words," foreman fbi deputy assistant director of counterintelligence peter strzok discusses his career and the work he did on the russia investigation. find more schedule information
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at or consult your program guide. now it's a look at new york city neighborhoods during the coronavirus pandemic with author bill hayes. >> welcome to powerhouse arena's virtual event. my name's chris, i'm the events coordinate ifer, and we're happy to be hosting the launch for "how we live now" with bill hayes. you can buy the book at powerhouse the link is in the event page, and it is also posted in the chat. we'll send out bookplates -- is that true? yep, signed bookplates, and if you have any questions, you can use the q&a function at the bottom of your screen, and bill will take your questions at the end of the event. leapt -- let me introduce roz
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chast. she has published more than 1,000 cartoons. she wrote and illustrated the number one bestseller, can we talk about something more pleasant, a national book critics sir cull award and -- circle. what i ate from a-z. bill hayes is the hour of insomniac city among other books, and a forthcoming history of exercise, sweat, to be published by bloomsbury. he is a frequent contributor to the new york times. a collection of his street photography, how new york breaks your heart, was published recently. he has completed a screenplay for a film adaptation for insomniac city, and he is co-editor of oliver saks posthumous books.
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i'll hand it over. thank you. >> huh, billy. -- hi, billy. >> hey, roz. hi, everyone, welcome. >> huh, everybody -- hi, everybody. great to see you, bull lu, and very excited about this -- billy. we're here to talk about your upcoming book -- >> yes. >> "how we live now," and we certainly do. [laughter] i guess i want to start by asking you when did you first realize that this wasn't just like another news story about some virus, that it was actually something that was going to change the way we all live? >> i think probably towards the very end of february, beginning of march. as i read about it in asia and europe and just felt like it was
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almost like a tsunami approaching our shores. and sure enough, by the first week of march, it had hit the u.s. >> i'm actually surprised in a way, because it's actually kind of great, because i think for me i was very knew e eve, you know? there were so many stories that i hear all, you know, on the news about a virus here, a disease here, and i don't know, like the moss key toe thing, and i just never really thought -- i never took it that seriously. lord knows why i was so, you know, blase about it, but i never thought there'd ban ebola outbreak in the united states, i never gave much thought to the mosquito west nile virus, any of that. >> right.
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>> so i was much later to realizing the seriousness of it and that it was here. >> yeah. well, how could one ever have imagined what this would become? i mean, yes, i sort of felt like it was coming, and it was going to be serious, and perhaps because i lived through the aids pandemic in the 1980, i lived in san francisco, i moved there in 1985 and experienced that entire pandemic which, of course, has been devastating and continues to this day. there still is not an aids vaccine, and too many people around the world have died of aids. and i think i remember how in the very early days, you know, it spread just basic air travel, international air travel. and, but, of course, i could never have imagined it would
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become the global pandemic it has become and that we would be on lockdown and stay at home and that our lives would change virtually overnight. >> right. and the thing with aids, i think you and i have talked about this a little bit, is that they figured out how, more or less how it was spread. not at the beginning, you know, because at the beginning there was so much pair now what, like you could -- paranoia, like you could get it sharing food with somebody. but here we still don't even know with this. we know it's breath, we know it's respiratory, but, you know, do you remember at the beginning when they talked the about washing down groceries and stuff? >> yeah, yeah. [laughter] it's awe amazing how much has happened in the past six months, isn't it? >> yes. and also how little. >> and also how little. true, yeah. >> you know, i mean it's a very,
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very -- i think we're all sort of feeling that. i remember something that one of my kids said in may, he said in talking about just how short of is shrunken their lives have all become. like we don't travel -- >> right. >> we don't eat out the way we used to, you know, as blithely, we don't go into stores, we -- and this was back a couple months, but going to the grocery store was like, hmm, do i really need that, or maybe i won't go to the grocery -- and he said it's like we all got old at the same time. >> that's really a good, good way to put it. >> yeah. yeah, yeah. >> yeah, i think, you know, in some ways i think that's what i tried to capture in this book, how our lives changed virtually overnight in ways we never could have imagined. >> yes. >> and for me to try to capture
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in realtime what has this been like -- >> yes, yeah, i wanted to ask -- >> that changes. >> you keep a journal, right? >> i do. at the behest of my late partner, oliver saks, god bless him. really when i first met him in person, i wasn't really writing much in those days, and he said you must keep a journal. and i followed his advice and started a journal in 2009, and i still keep it. maybe not as closely -- i've gone through stages. but i did keep a very close journal during the pandemic, and a lot of the material from this book came directly from those journals. >> you still keeping it? >> oh, sure, yeah. still making notes, and that's really how this book started, just with notes from a journal with. things i was noticing, things i was hearing or not hearing, how our lives were changing so
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quickly. >> at what point did you realize this might actually become a book? >> well, i have to give credit to mid editor, nancy miller, who's also your editor and our friend. we share an amazing, brilliant editor, nancy miller. >> yeah. >> believe me, i had no idea that i would write a book about the pandemic in 2020. and, in fact, at the end of january i completed a draft of a different book, a very different book on the history of exercise called "sweat" which i'd been working on for years. and i sent that in to nancy at the end of february, i also finished this screenplay for insomniac city, so i thought i was just going to sit back for a few months and relax and that this would be the year of my book on the history of exercise. but not long into the pandemic after it hit the u.s., maybe the
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second week of march or so, i was posting some things on facebook, little vignettes about things i was seeing in my neighborhood or at my bookstore. and as you know, i'm a photographer, so posting photos. and nancy arranged for facetime meeting. and i thought it was going to be a meeting about talking about this other book, "sweat." and instead she said what would you think about writing a short book and photographing a short book about the pandemic? and i was sort of taken aback, but i immediately said, yeah. yeah, that's a great idea. [laughter] and in retrospect, it feels like a great gift, it was a gift to have this book the work on. especially in those early days when we were really on lockdown, and i live alone, and it kept me from climbing the walls. i wrote and photographed the book in go months.
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in two months. >> wow. that's fast for for a book. >> yeah. >> i mean, i know you, and i do books also, and that's, that is fast. and it's wonderful, wonderful book. i love especially the way it combines pictures and words. and that, to me, is one of the reasons why i love cartoons and why i love graphic novels and also why i love this book so much, because there is this wonderful -- it's not just with images. there's, like, a story. >> right. >> there's a whole story. and it's not just separate images and then descriptions of what you're seeing. it places alongside the narrative that, you know, is very moving in a way. i mean, can you talk a little bit about looking out your window?
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>> sure. i mean, the cover of the book shows eighth avenue, which is right out there. i would turn the computer monitor, if i could, completely empty. i think i took the photo april 1st. now, this is a very, very spooky and unusual sight, because what i was used to was seeing eighth avenue clogged with traffic. and, in fact, i found it very beautiful. i would look out at, let's say, 6:00 and see eighth avenue just a sea of red lights, of brake lights and traffic lights just clogged from here to central park. and, in fact, the first photographs or one of the first photographs in the book is of eighth avenue in december, december 2019. and a few pages later it's fouled by eighth avenue -- followed by eighth avenue completely empty. and throughout the book this sort of before and after -- >> yeah. >> photos and stories.
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new york before the pandemic and after. and so those two photos side by side really tell that story. and i think, you know, i think photos can tell stories as well as prose. >> they absolutely do. i mean, i think that's why for me they appeal so much, because they're very, they do tell stories. all of your photos tell stories. and a lot of them tell stories of another thing that you and i have in common which is our love of this amazing city. >> yeah. >> i mean, new york, there are people who i think are more -- they move around and they love the place that they're in, but they don't -- loving, they don't have that extreme love for a place. and for me, new york is a sort of magical place. i know i moved out of the city when i had my second kid, and we raised our family, public
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schools, blah, the usual and also lack of, you know, the funds to bring up two kids in the city. but every time i came into the city, every dime i got -- every time i got into grand central, ah, i can take off this little suburban hat and just be myself. so, yeah, you were there throughout this whole, this whole thing. i mean, listening to people talk about it a lot, and i think you mentioned in your book the sound, how quiet in march and april. >> yeah. i just talked about seeing eighth avenue completely emptied out at rush hour, what would normally be rush hour. but just as eerie but in a certain way kind of beautiful was how quiet it became. is so quiet, i could hear birds
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singing. instead of traffic and horns honking and people, i could hear birds singing, i could hear a single is voice on the street, i could hear someone at the gas station kitty corner from me talking on a cell phone. so that was extraordinary. i mean, it's been a tragic and frightening time, but there have been moments of real beauty. that is also what i tried to capture in the book. >> you did. i mean, there's a real finish kind of quality. pictures of the city empty, i mean, that was -- seeing the city from outside those first couple months i didn't come in at all, it was really very scary looking. your photos, also, of the subway -- >> yeah. >> did you take the subway at
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all? when did you take it and what was that like? >> it was the last time i took the subway before the lockdown which was march 13th, it was a friday, and i had to go puck up some prohibits. i have my photos printed at a printer in long island city, and it's a really nice, easy subway ride. on the e train. >> yeah. >> but by that time, things were getting spooky, and i thought about taking a taxi or an uber, and then i thought it's such a quick subway ride. >> yeah. >> but inside the car was unlike any i'd ever experienced. there was this tension. and keep in mind this was before people were wearing masks. but there's a sense that, you know, everyone wanted to keep away from one another. and i remember feeling glad when i got back home. >> yeah. >> and then i didn't take the subway again until, gosh, maybe late june or something?
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>> yeah. >> it was a while. but, yeah, i did go down into subway stations and enter trains just to take photos. and that was probably one of the spookiest things i'd ever done because i went deliberately at rush hour when the subway stations would normally be so packed and train would be so packed. >> yeah. >> and they were just empty. >> so scary. i mean, those were the images that got me so much when with i would be watching, you know, on tv or whatever pick cures of the city in march -- pictures of the city in march and april, especially in april. this is the train at rush hour, and there'd be, like, nobody on it. >> right. >> it was really creepy. >> yeah. in fact, you want to look at some photos? >> yeah, i would love to. >> okay. i've got a little slide slow. >> cool.
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>> quick. bear with me. ♪ ♪ [background sounds] ♪ ♪ ♪ >> there we go.
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>> yeah. those before and after pictures of eighth avenue, that's awe amazing. >> yeah. and there was one subway shot there, in the book itself there's a shot into the l train. and as you know, the l train -- especially at rush hour -- can be so packed. it goes from here to brooklyn and back. >> yeah. >> and i i think there might have been three people in the entire line of a train that was idling. so i went in, i took a bunch of pictures very fast. i didn't really want to go on the ride and ducked back out. but i didn't, you know, i did subway photos for a couple of weekends and weeks and then just picked the very best ones for the book. >> well, they're wonderful. you know, it's funny, i think the subway probably pretty safe -- >> yeah. >> right now.
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>> we talked about that the other night. you and i had dinner on the upper west side which, as we said, dinner outdoors and distanced, and it's one of the very few upsides to this whole pandemic, this outdoor dining during the summer. >> yeah. >> we both talked about how the subway feels very safe. >> yeah, yeah. >> i've been riding it recently, and everyone has masks and is socially distanced. >> yeah. >> it's never been cleaner. >> yeah. i do feel that the subway is not where i'm going to get sick e. >> right. >> but i wonder about, i mean, what i've heard from people is that midtown is still pretty empty because people haven't -- >> right. >> -- gone back to work. >> right. >> i mean, do you have any feelings about or any intuition about how this will, you know, play out? do you think that people will
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come back to offices or -- >> i, you know, it's hard to know and things have changed so quickly, i think that question really depends upon, in some ways depends upon treatment and a vaccine. >> yeah, yeah. >> and, you know, at the same time it has been amazing to see how new yorkers have adapted very quickly. >> yeah. >> to this new normal. whether at a bookstore or at a restaurant or a shop. >> have you seen any, like, things like during this that are just sort of inexplicably just made you weepy? >> sure. sure. i mean, one, one thought that just comes to mind is, you know, there's that that -- in fact, i write about it in the book, there was a head in "the new york times" that said something like now's the time to make your own face mask.
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because before that they were, authorities were sort of hedging and saying, no, only for front-line are workers, don't hoard them, you don't need to wear a face mask, and then suddenly they were saying wear a face mask, and there were all these videos about how to make face masks. [laughter] and i, i couldn't find a bandanna or scarf -- [laughter] so i imto vised, and first i tried a vacuum cleaner bag which i cut up -- [laughter] >> new, i hope. >> yeah, a new one, a clean one. i was is so sick, i couldn't breathe. i said this is going in my time capsule. but i made a face max out of a cloth napkin with shoe laces. >> oh, that has a very, that has
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a lot of connotations to me. >> like what? >> okay. when i see that, i think of, like, pioneer women and sanitary napkins. [laughter] i mean, it's just not good. it's just not good at all. >> it was a touching moment. >> touching or it can be something that just unexplicably reached you. like, i'll tell you what's happened to me. in march, it must have been about the third week in march, and i was already feeling very fragile about all of this, and i started thinking about -- this is going to sound insane -- the, not mr. papaya, one of those, like, it's a papaya king --
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gray's pa pay ya -- papaya, that's it, on 72nd and broadway. probably once a year i buy a hot dog there, if that. it's not like i always go to gray's papaya. but it has always been there. >> it's a new york institution. >> it's a new york institution, it was there in 1978 when i moved into my apartment, when i moved back part time to the city or back to the upper e west side, it's still there, you know? it just made me happy for some reason to see it. and i started to sort of imagine that it was going to go out of business, and i got, like, hysterical weeping. like, thousands of people dying from coronavirus, no. gray's papaya disappearing, that's what made me cry. i mean, it's just -- it's like hysterical crying. i think it was like, for me, it sort of symbolized what new york
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is going to lose -- >> right. >> -- and what would not come back. and i'm happy to say that gray's papaya's doing very well, so check that one. i know, i know. i i mean, i'm telling you. is so check that worry off my list. >> right. well, you know, i think that's something i also tried to capture in sort of before and after and what we have lost probably, you know? in some cases we've probably lost. hopefully, aspects of new york will come back, but as you read the book, their recollections of subway rides or experiences in crowded bars or in restaurants or a tax su ride, you know? >> yeah. yeah, just -- >> discussing the before and after. >> all the things that we did without really thinking. >> right. >> and it does seem like, i mean, you think of it as like the before time, like before
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corona, b.c.? >> i think so. i do think new york will come back. there's no place like new york and new yorkers. >> yes. yes. >> for sure. and it will be a different city, but it will come back in a different way, i think. >> yeah. yeah, i mean, i worry about some places that, i mean, it's one of the things that i love so much about new york which was going down some weird side street in midtown and running into some shoe store that made orthopedic shoes and, like, everything in the window was covered with dust, but they still were operational, and they had those weird, like, polio shoes. i wonder, like, how is that store going to come back? >> yeah. >> you know? it won't. it won't. and one of the things that made
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new york, makes new york to special is the sort of layering, you know? you have this, you know, condo or very fresh-faced store, you know, for some kind of cosmetic you've never heard of next to orthopedic shoe store that's been there since, i don't know what, the pre-cam by january era or something. and it's all mashed together and all different eras, and, you know, a store that just sells, like, dowellies from the -- doilies from the 1950s, doily supplies. anyway, i think it is almost time to take some q&a. okay. paul asks what would a typical journal entry be? >> for me, a typical journal entry might be -- well, a couple things.
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it might be a story. aning encounter i had on the street. in fact, there are a lot of those in the book. you know, it's part of my practice just to, even before the pandemic, to go for a walk, open myself up to chance really, follow the green lights like with no destination in mind. if the light is green, i'll go that way. with my camera. and see what happens. see who i mightif meet. see who i might. so in the course of this book meeting three young daughters from nyu who were sitting on a stoop -- doctors, having dinner and drinks on their stoop. and it was at a moment where no one else was doing something like that. so, of course, i had to stop and say, hey, guys, can i take your photo? they said, sure, and we started
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talking. and it turned out that all three of them had had covid-19, had had coronavirus early in the pandemic, like in january, and recovered quickly. and told me that almost everyone in their department at nyu had gotten sick, that it had blown through their department. and they didn't know at that time that it was covid-19, they just thought it was a terrible flu. it was the first time i'd heard it, it was really good to hear a story about people who had recovered because i was only hearing about deaths, and their experience -- >> yes. >> so i came home and wrote down that story of the encounter including the dialogue i had. and i had taken a photo of them as well. other times a journal entry might be just some internal thought i have sitting here in this apartment, you know? i remember highing on the couch one day -- lightening -- lying on the couch one day and just realizing how very, very, very quiet it was and that you could
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hear a bird singing. and that just struck me. usually, my journal entries start with, you know, jotting on a note pad, and then i go into a computer version of it. and this new york journal which i started in 2009 must be something like, i don't know, like 1500 pages at this point. [laughter] so when it came to writing this book, especially drawing on stories from the fourth pandemic, there were stories and thoughts and images to draw from. and these were alling, of course, post-unsome any yak city. in some -- post-insomniac city. together with my book of photography, how new york breaks your heart, this could make a kind of trilogy. >> yeah. well, i mean, new york has such a sort of street life is like
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nowhere else in the world. in your book you also, and this is from before the pandemic, you talk, there's a conversation you have with two young people where just waiting for the light to change, and they're talking about an apartment house? >> yeah. >> ah, and it's like this really cool looking building, and they're talking about, like, wanting to live there. then the three of you have is, i mean, could you describe it? because it's such a charming, funny conversation. >> this is the kind of thing that happened all the time, and it happened all the time to me, just falling into a conversation with complete strangers, even just as you cross the street, and your encounter with them is no more than one minute or 30 seconds, and you can connect with people. or you could. you could. you know? and that has changed since the pandemic. so in the book that story of meeting that young couple and having this sort of charming fantasy about living in this beautiful brownstone is followed by a much more stark and austere
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story about my walking around the empty streets and finding them just empty. can and feeling a little spooked by it. but then this was, it sort of gets back to what you asked me about a touching moment. this was when i was -- [laughter] wearing my cloth or underwear masks. >> pioneer mask. >> i couldn't find the masks to buy, and i happened to come across an independent pharmacy, a little pharmacy on 14th street. or it's usually so busy, and there was a big sign in the window that said something like two free discuss pose bl masks -- disposable masks for anyone, just knock on the door or rung the bell. ring the bell. i rang the bell, and this pharmacist came to the door and i said, may i have a mask. [laughter]
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you know? and he said, yes, just one moment. and he went back and he came back and he gave me two kind of surgical masks, you know, in a sanitary bag, and it was like this little gift, you know? nothing was required. you didn't have to buy anything at the pharmacy, he was just being a kind fellow new yorker. and that really choked me up. >> yeah. yeah, that's, i think that would choke me up. [laugher] next question asks, okay, asks what do you think oliver would have made of this era in this changed world? >> yeah. were i'm now living in what was oliver's apartment, oliver's 130-year-old grand piano behind me. oliver, if he were alive, would be 87 today. he saw a lot in his life
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including survivors of the encephalitis pandemic of the early 20th century, what came to be known as his awakening stations. >> right, right. >> so i think, you know, he would have drawn some parallels with other terrible pandemics in history. i think oliver would have been absolutely horrified by president trump and his administration and the handling of this pandemic. i think he would have had fear as an elderly person about getting sick. he would have worried about the many complications and unusual symptoms. we certainly saw that with his encephalitis patients, we're seeing that somewhat with coronavirus, that it can manifest many different ways. >> yeah. >> but, yeah, i think about it a
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lot, especially living here and writing my book at the desk where oliver wrote so many of his works. >> well, this is a good question, and it's a what we've been talking about a lot. from ralph rodriguez, what do you both think makes new york so strong even in the face of the pandemic? >> you go first. [laughter] >> okay. all right. i think new yorkers have a rep aation, a bad reputation in a lot of parts of the country for being mean or cold -- >> right. >> i don't think that's it at all. i think, yeah, you know, new yorkers can be brusque, but i think partly it's because especially in manhattan it's so compressed, you know?
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it's so densely populated that there's a little bit of a sense like back in the past when the subway was so crowded. it's not like, oh, it's just like a dystopian future where everybody's, like, living in their own world. no, it's so freaking crowded every freaking second that, like, letting them alone in their own world to have their own quiet thoughts. >> right. >> and there's a sort of respect and an understanding that you might not want to be barged in on every second because there's constantly everything at you every second. but i think in a crisis we know that we're too dependent on one another to pretend that we're all living a million miles from each other and everybody, you know, we're all for ourselves. we all live together or we die together. >> right.
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>> we are all interconnected and interdependent. and i think we know that on a non-intellectual level. we know that on a really basic, every emotional, intellectual, physical level, you know? and so i think there's a way that new yorkers feel very connected and loving of each other even if it's not shown in the same way that it may be shown in other parts of the country, i don't know. your turn. [laughter] >> oh. you would say almost exactly the same thing. i mean, i think it's the fact that it is so densely populated in a relatively small geographic area, we sort of have to look out for one another. and i think it's one reason new york has ultimately done so well in this pandemic. >> it's done amazing lu well. >> i mean, back in april as i
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write e in the book, and the book is really written in realtime, so basically starts in mid march and goes two mid may. so about two months. and then i wrote a postcrypt which deals with the black -- postscript which deal with the black liveses matter marches following the murder of george floyd in the first week of june. so the book sort of spans the first 100 days of the pandemic. but, yeah, i'm with you. there's a way in which new yorkers look out for one another. >> yeah. i mean, when we had dinner last week, that was my second trip to the city since this started, and i was almost moved to tears several times at how ingenious
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and how hard everybody was working to make things okay, you know? closures in the street for the restaurant tables. i mean, that's not easy to do. and i had, the night before i had had dinner with somebody else, and the place had strung these little lights on the enclosure, i mean, and it was beautiful. it went on at 8:00 in the dusk, and that almost made me cry. i mean, that was, like, people are really working hard, you know, to survive, to make it okay. and, yeah, there's no, not really tourists here now, which is, you know, not something i feel that -- i have mixed feelings about that, let's say. i don't want to sound like a mean person. but, you know, and especially because this, you know, the theater district and stuff. but, yeah, that's pretty empty because there's no theater.
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but -- oh, hold on one second, let me just turn this off one second. >> sure. cheers, everyone. thank you for joining us for this book launch. >> sorry. i had to -- my husband turned the fan on thinking that it was, like, a good thing, but it's is so noisy, the sound of a jet engine, and it was like, no, no, no. >> i really thought you were going to go get one of your birds. >> oh, oh! no, they're, like, busy doing bird things. let's see -- >> another question? >> yes. nancy says what is your favorite photo in the book and why. and before you answer that that, i do have a question for you about the photos. you told me that you took something like 900 photos. >> more than that, actually. >> more than that? how dud you win know them
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down -- winnow them down? because there's 35 in the book? >> there are 35 photos in the book. i think during that period, let's say beginning of march through first of june, i mean, i don't really know, but i would say i took at least a couple thousand photos. now, i took -- i take a lot of photos because one has to take a lot of photos in order to get good ones. >> yes. >> and i come home and may have taken a hundred photos, let's say. maybe i made trips to a couple subway stations, and i shot some people on the street and took photos of buildings and all kinds of things, and then i sit down at my computer, and i only edit the ones i feel are going to be good photos. whatever that means good compositionally, good graphically, good emotionally. so the number is very large. and then, you know, the group
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that i chose from was maybe more like 500 or so. and it was, it's a very intuitive process, you know, which photos to select. and where do they fall in the book -- >> they seem very emblematic and really, really good. and they say a lot. they say a lot. and i like that they're all different, you know? there's people, there's personal ones, there's ones of the subway, but they still very much seem like your photos. >> yeah. well, i have to say, you know, i've been asked several times like how did you do this, how did you write and photograph this book in two monthses? >> yeah, that's -- yeah, tell us that. >> good question. well, i guess i would say that i, all of my work to daut or my career to date sort of prepared
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he me for this moment because i had been shooting photographs on the street since moving to new york in 2009. is so for 11 years. taught myself how to use a camera, taught myself how to do sheet photograph few, made tons of mistakes, learned from my mistakes, was comfortable approaching strangers to ask them if i could take photos so that when this moment came and i was out especially in the afternoon to take photos, it was not a new skill, and i think i could do it efficiently and quickly. and, you know, some very, very basic lessons that i learned early on, like always have your camera on -- [laughter] and the lens cap off. [laughter] because if you don't, you might lose a really good picture. finish i guess the question was what's one of your favorite pictures. of one that just came to mind is the, i think it's called the
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kiss at the farmers' market. i was at the farmers' market at union square wandering around just kind of looking for photos, and not really finding things. then i happened to catch this couple who'd been working at the market, and at the end of the day they're a packing up their truck, and they had a kiss. they were kissing. [laughter] and i happened to be standing there just as they were kissing. i caught the picture because i just happened to be there with my camera on, the lens cap off, and it captures a really intimate, sweet moment. and then i chatted with them, and i said is it okay, took your picture and i showed it to them on my camera, and i still remember their names, daria and jacob. so, daria and jacob, if you're out thereing thank you for that
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photo. >> cain breyer says your photos show an incredible ability to connect with the subject. how has that changed, if at all, during the pandemic? >> ooh. i think a lot. i mean, it was, it was kind of -- it was very striking at first going out when things were very scary and just seeing the near people's faces. i mean, it was about what was happening. if i approached, you know, the immediate reaction was to be afraid. >> yeah. yeah. >> so just having to be really chill and tell them what i'm doing and explain that -- in those days -- yeah. sort of trying to capture what's happening in our city. and usually people were really cool. but one thing i want to say about the photographs, you know, as i said, i probably took a couple thousand during that
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period, but in those early days you remember it was only social distancing that we were practicing for a few weeks there. there were no masks or really obvious signs of what was happening. so although i got some really good portraits and great pictures and i was always at least 6 feet away which was what was recommended, when i look at them now, they don't necessarily convey that we're in the middle of a pandemic. so i had to look for pictureses that conveyed something about the situation we were in. and, i mean, a good example, a photo early in the book of a woman sitting alone on a park bench -- >> yes. yes, it's from march. >> right, from march. she's alone because the rest of the park benches were completely empty. >> yeah. >> it really conveyed that sense of social distancing especially if you compare it to other
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photographs i've taken of people on park benches. i could probably do an entire book of people on park benches where they're crowded with hilarious juxtapositions of new yorkers. >> this is a very good question, because i always wonder when you, you're talking about photography, i mean, well, i'll ask this question first, and then i want to ask a question. >> i'm going to turn on the light. all right, go ahead. >> okay, janice is asking do you always ask your subjects permission before taking the photo, and then doesn't that ruin the spontaneity of the moment? and that's very related to what i was going to ask you with. how did that work with, you know, your street photography is very different from certain types of street photograph i my from the '60. >> right. >> i don't know, diane artis or
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robert frank, i don't know, i'm blanking out the names. photo the people without asking permission. could talk about that? >> well, like, gary -- >> right. >> walking down the streets of new york taking hundreds of photos. >> yeah. >> you know, i've just never been comfortable with that. i've just never been comfortable. so from the if very beginning in 2009 when i first started out, ill approach people and ask may i take your picture. that's always been my practice. and, yes, to answer her question, it does sometimes lose the spontaneity or lose the picture, but it's worth it, i think. and, you know, i call my pictures of people on the street street portraits. because they really are almost like on the spot portraits of people.
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what's perhaps different about the photos in this book is that there are fewer portraits of people and more of empty streets, empty subway stations, empty cars, and those are contrasted with photos which are included in the book from before the pandemic. >> yeah. >> and very carefully with our great editor, nancy miller, selected a few photos from before the pandemic, most of them taken last summer, to get a sense, a contrast of how much can change so quickly. so there's a photo i love from the gay pride parade in 2019 of this group of kids, students here in the west village clearly having a great time just crowded onto a stoop, and it's a very youful picture, and it's exactly the kind of picture that i could never capture this summer. >> yeah. well, hopefully next summer. >> yeah.
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>> yeah. i mean, we're doing the best we can, you know? i feel like that's what this is sort of -- >> yeah. >> -- for everybody, you know? it's very much, there's a little bit of a groundhog day feel, but also we're doing the best we can and having as much empathy for one another as possible because everybody is pretty much going through it, at least in new york, in a sort of similar way. i mean, nobody is going to the theater or, you know, the gym or -- which doesn't bother me, but -- [laughter] might bother other people. you know, nobody is, it's sort
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of the same, we're all wearing masks, hopefully, you know? which is a strange kind of thing. i mean, sometimes -- do you ever like you're out and everybody's wearing a mask, and you just think is this where last year at this time -- if this were last year at this time you would just think i was having some sort of really bad drug experience. like, this just does not make any sense at all. the buses where you get on in the back and the empty subway cars at rush hour and everybody, you know, with their mask. none of it would make any sense. >> no. and i have to say as a photographer who loves to photograph people, it's been, it's been hard and kind of sad because i love to photograph faces. the masks cover up faces and smiles and expressions. but, you know, i felt like a certain responsibility with this
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book to document what life is like now, how we live now. and so there's a kind of profession of the photographs. we talk about the -- progression. by the end of the book, people are wearing masks. >> yeah. but t gotten, i mean, when i looked at that picture of the woman alone on the bench in march and i think about what things were like where i am in march and then i contrast that to now -- >> yeah. >> i feel better. part of it's the weather, you know? once it got warmer it seemed like it was just easier to be outside -- >> yeah. >> i was at the park a few days ago, and it was great, you know? i never felt like, oh, my god, there's too many people. i've heard that from a couple people. i never fete -- felt that. i felt like it was very easy to
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mountain social distance, plus you're outside, and it was just great to see so many people outside. so much better than it was in march where you didn't leave your house. >> plus, you know, and i live in one of the least affected neighborhoods in new york. even in the west village, there were big refederal judge rated morgue trucks -- refrigerated morgue trucks for the dead bodies -- >> that's to horrible. >> at a time when there were 800-1,000 people a day duing. listen a day duing. listen,, let me through a question back to you, roz. >> okay. >> i feel like you in your own way have been documenting the pandemic through your cartoons for the newer. >> yes. i mean -- the new yorker. >> i mean, that is my job. it's gotten darker, and i'm just going to see if i can get a little more light here. dang. that was my ukelele.
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that's kind of my job in a way, and it's also what i like to do. i think, for me, the cartoons are a way to process whatever i'm going through, and certainly the experiences going through this pandemic affects me in every way every day. you know? from the beginning of, you know, just the kind of panic and staying inside, really just not wanting to go to the store to a few weeks ago i had a door -- a cartoon about, it was called refresher course, and it was about going to what? what is store, you know, s-t-o-r. store, buy things with money. what money? and then, you know, just explaining what -- and the
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store, of course, maybe do that. because it's not like the grocery store or, you know, like an essential store. like a store where you buy, like, a candle or -- [laughter] >> right. when you talk about, one of my favorite cartoons is dr. fauci on -- >> oh, fauci on your shoulder. yes. you're not 6 feet, that's -- [laughter] let's go to a question. okay. not really question but, but a thought from the other side of the world. some of us wonder whether we will ever get back to new york city again. your books are one way we can be there. thank you. >> aww. >> yeah. >> well, hi, australia. wonderful to have everyone here. thank you all for being with us. it's amazing. >> it is. >> yeah, i hope that it does
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give you a glimpse of what been like and also a little bit of light and hope too. i mean, it's also a very romantic book because i'm a total romantic. whether about new york or others. >> yes. yeah. i'm more -- i think i'm romantic about new york. >> i think that's how we bonded. [laughter] >> yes, it's true. it's true. >> i had just finished writing insomniac city, id had just finished -- i had finished, and you were at some stage, maybe in the middle of writing your book about new york. >> yes. i would feel remiss if i didn't mention e.b. white's book about new york call here is new york, one of the best books ever written about the city.
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and he talks about how new york bestows the gift of loneliness for those who desire such -- [inaudible] and he doesn't say solitude, he doesn't say aloneness. he uses loneliness. and that always stuck with me. stuck with me. and i don't know, it's just a really excellent book about new york and what it's like that you and i have bonded over and we love so much. we want to see the city do well and survive and come back if whatever form it comes back, you know? >> yeah. i love your image of an archaeological dig. because i think this is a whole new layer that we are in, and there will be a new new york, and it will be different -- >> yeah. >> and it will be elements of
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the new york we each fell in love with. >> yeah. >> but it will be a new city. >> it will be a new city. >> yeah. are there more questions? i think we're coming around finish. >> i think we are -- ooh, if there's one more here? wait a second. no, that was the -- oh. okay, here's one. you mentioned your book -- [inaudible] oh, possibly insomniac city and you also wrote a book called street demons. >> yes. >> how have you been sleeping in a pandemic? pandemic dreams? [laughter] >> i did have a dream once, like an anxiety dream about not having a mask. yeah. >> people i know have had that too. or you have the mask, but you're in this crowded place, and nobody else does. >> yeah. >> eerie. >> eerie, yeah.
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i think i've been sleeping about the same. but i think because of the quiet and just the change of the pace of few life, you know, i'm not going out to the gym, i'm not going out to dinner really or lunch with my agent or friends, i'm spending a lot of time here. and certainly working on this book, i was immersed in working on this book day and night for about a hundred days. so i did learn a little bit how to nap during the day. >> projects are wonderful. and this is a wonderful book, wonderful project. i'm glad that you did this. i'm glad, it's a wonderful book for you, but it's also a document of this time, and it's such a good one.
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so it is 8:00, and thank you, everybody. >> thank you, everybody. thanks for joining us. >> yes. >> yes, thank you. thank you, roz, thank you, bill. thank you, everyone who asked questions, and if you missed any of the event, we'll have it on youtube. and, of course, buy the book. we have the links on the event page and thank everybody for tuning in. >> thanks, chris. thank you, billy, love you. >> love you, roz. thank you, powerhouse, for hosting. >> of course. >> good night. >> good night. .. hi, everybody. welcome.


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