an afternoon with justin
I'm not sure how to describe my afternoon with Justin Hackworth. We'd arranged to meet the day after Alt NYC so that I could have some photos taken and he suggested Central Park. I've loved the editorial feel of Justin's work - portraiture that falls somewhere between candid and documentary. Very personal and timeless. I thought I knew what I was signing up for when I asked him to take some pictures of me (I read his 'interview') but I really had no idea. We met in Columbus Circle and crossed the street to head into Central Park. Before we made it 20 yards, Justin spotted a pedi-cab driver that he and his wife Amy had enjoyed a ride with earlier in the week and he wanted to take his picture. The driver remembered Justin, too and gladly posed for him. Watching the quick candid I imagined all the other photos I've seen in Justin's instagram feed that must've started out this way - a real and personal connection. Justin thanked him and then turned to me and said he knew exactly where he wanted to go in Central Park so I followed. As we walked Justin started off with some 'getting to know you' questions to, well, get to know me. "So what exactly is seagrass studio?" I explained what I do, how I started painting things for my children but they grew up so I started painting things for myself. He asked about my children and their ages. I asked him about his two boys - I had the advantage of knowing a little more about him than he knew of me because of instagram. At this point Justin offered to hold my bag and asked me to walk ahead, stop and then turn around. Um... sure... We walked this way for a stretch - talking easily about Alt NYC this year versus last year's conference. When I said this year was better Justin wondered why. I explained that, as a whole, I thought the speakers were more dynamic and the content was richer and the attendees seemed just that much better. But I was better this year, too. Justin told me about his boating on the lake in Central Park with Amy earlier in the week and how every time they come she's wanted to go and it's never worked out but this time, Justin made sure it happened. We saw a 20-something offering 'jokes for a dollar' and we agreed that no matter how great the jokes could be, he couldn't possibly subsist on that kind of income and as parents we couldn't help but be concerned about stuff like healthcare. And shelter. And then we came upon the lower Bethesda Terrace. A string quartet was playing in the lower terrace and we agreed that no one builds beautiful, tiled buildings anymore. We talked about Frederick Law Olmstead and all the iconic landscape architecture he designed in his lifetime. A duo dressed as gypsies began to set up their act which seemed to upset the string quartet. We wondered who was in charge of street performers, was there a signup somewhere or was it first come first serve? At this point I've completely forgotten that I'm having my picture taken. It was just an easy conversation with a friend - as though I've known Justin forever but full of interesting questions and curious things. He asked if I've read any of Amy's posts on Design Mom and I said I hadn't but in truth I had read her posts I just didn't realize that Gabrielle Blair hadn't written them. I wish I'd known that then, I would've told him how much I loved her piece on our perception of age.
The quartet began to pack up their strings which seemed to please the 'gypsies'. Justin mentioned that Amy's had different hair styles but he likes her current short cut and asked if I've always had short hair. I explained that it's been short and long and then short again over the years but mostly short. I told him the story about when I was sixteen and chopped it all off. I don't remember going into the salon and asking for the short cut but I will always remember how I felt once it was gone. I loved it. It was easy and a little edgy and surprisingly no one called me by my sister's name anymore or confused us. A distinction that was very important to me then but something I wouldn't mind at all now. Justin asked my age. Like a nine-year-old-about-to-turn-ten I answered "almost forty five" - it turns out Justin and I are the same age. He said he'd recently run into someone he went to school with and was surprised at how his classmate had aged. I said that sometimes it's a lot of work to take care of kids and families and jobs AND take care of yourself. Sometimes it's easier to give up because you're tired. He asked when and where I met my husband. I said in college and he said, no - the exact day I saw him for the very first time. OK then - Skidmore College, September 1986 at the check-in card table set up outside McClellan, our dorm. Bob asked my name and introduced himself and then handed me the key to my room. I wish I'd asked Justin the same question. In retrospect, we talked so easily all afternoon but I didn't ask him nearly as many questions about himself as he did of me. I wanted to ask about Amy, and Utah, and the Rooftop Concert Series and his 30 Strangers project. We walked on and out to Fifth Avenue by the Frick Collection. I asked what his plans were now that his week-long NYC adventure was coming to a close. He mentioned he was really looking forward to dinner because a friend had invited the two of them out to Scarsdale. The invite was special because Travis Stratford, a founding partner of the creative agency CASE, was going to be there and he was sure he wouldn't know what to say to him. We stopped outside an apartment building and watched as a doorman helped an older gentleman gathering his things out of his car and into the building. We wondered what this man did for a living that he could afford the address and the luxuries. How long had he lived there? How much would it take to be able to live like that in NYC because we both agreed that we weren't sure we could handle not having a car, or parking or wide open spaces. Or closets.
What felt like 30 minutes was in reality almost two hours (and a mile-long walk) and we both realized we had other places to be. Bob and the kids were almost in NYC for our weekend and Justin had his dinner plans. I'm so glad I got in touch with Justin before Alt NYC about taking some photos and so relieved it worked out. Our afternoon was the icing on an already fabulous few days in NYC - investing in myself, meeting likeminded people and trying new things. My only wish is that I'd had a chance to get to know Amy better, too. And that we lived closer.
Thank you Justin - thank you for an afternoon I won't forget and for these gorgeous photographs that I will always treasure. Take care of yourself and hopefully we have a chance to meet up again.
PS - if you have the chance, I highly recommend Justin's Alt Channel classes PPS - headed to Alt SF or future Alt conferences? or maybe you're newly engaged or getting married soon? I'd get in touch with Justin