Susan Meiselas – On the A Train to Rockaway Beach, NYC (1978)
If you don’t live in NYC, you’re probably unaware of what the Rockaways have to do with fuck all.
I’ve been going out there–primarily to take photos–for a dozen years. In that time, I’ve learned a little bit about the history surrounding the place.
Alright, so there was this guy named Robert Moses who was an extremely powerful city planner. A great deal of what you think of with regards to NYC’s infrastructure was his brain child.
He was also an elitist asshole–who thought the poor needed to know their place and stay there; but part of his plans to keep them in their place involved small, perfunctory concessions.
He developed Jones Beach on Long Island as a place far enough out that only people with cars could get there. (Further, he built bridges and overpasses low, so that buses wouldn’t be able to navigate the roads to and from the beach.)
But, he established Riis Park as a beach location accessible by public transit.
When I first went out there in 2004, the desolation and disrepair of the site appealed to me. It was broken down but just functional enough not to seem completely ruinous.
In the wake of Super Storm Sandy, it’s changed dramatically. There was extensive damage and with the subsequent, inevitable redevelopment, The Rockaways have become the summer beach destination of choice for hipsters. (Although to their discredit, the dummies tend to favor the beaches west and north of Riis Park.)
So although I’m not exactly the biggest Meiselas acolyte, this image resonates with me because it’s familiar.
For example: the subway car in this image is only one generation behind the cars that still regularly run on the C line.
And as you travel toward the outer edges of the subway system, you always encounter increasingly odd behavior. I’m not entirely sure what these two young women are doing but I suspect they are showing Meiselas that they are wearing their swimsuits under their clothing.