Parking Meters

This project started in 2005. It was one of the first projects I began when I got back into photography after a long hiatus. I started to realize that my creativity worked better when guided by limitations or project goals, so I thought it would be good for me to photograph parking meters. Graffiti on parking meters to be exact.

Graffiti on parking meters fit my interest of ephemeral art. Since graffiti can always change (or be cleaned up), there’s a sense of the temporal. I also like taking pictures of other art because it’s a sort of retelling or reinterpretation of someone else’s work or viewpoint. I am deeply interested in how meaning can shift through the telling and subsequent retelling of a story or work of art.

I used three SLR’s, a variety of films, and a digital camera. This was before I bought my first dSLR, so the digital camera was an old Canon A20 point and shoot. I used it when I wanted to take pics at a weird angle and couldn’t look through the viewfinder. The other cameras were a Nikon N80, Nikkormat EL2, and Nikkormat EL. Lenses were a Nikkor 50/1.4, and Nikkor 24/2.8 (both fixed lenses…no zooming). For films, I used Kodak Ektachrome 1600, Ektachrome 400, TMax 3200, Fuji Provia 400, Superia 800, and Ilford Delta Pro 3200.

It was a great project. There are only so many ways to take a photo of a vandalized parking meter, so I was challenged to make each photo different from the others. I had to learn to try to make the most out of the background of each meter. It was also great to sharpen my skills at framing. Oh, I forgot to mention…I also imposed another restriction. When taking pics with film, I only allowed myself one exposure per parking meter. No bracketing, no redo’s, no multiple attempts. For each meter, I only had one shot. So I had to think very carefully about how I wanted to create each image.

As I look back at it, I can’t help but to feel how lucky I was to do the project at the time. Not only did I learn a lot and gain valuable experience, but the timing was also very fortunate. Though there are still some parking meters in New York City, many of them have been replaced with Muni-Meters. Most of the parking meters in these photos no longer exist.

It should be a lesson to me. I have tons of random project ideas in my head. I better get on them. Who knows if they’ll be possible in a few years?

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