Sandy Hook is a barrier spit in Middletown Township, Monmouth County, New Jersey. It’s about 60 miles from where I live. Most of the peninsula was at one time part of Fort Hancock. There they tested munitions that were to be used on Navy Ships. It was decommissioned in the early ’70s, and not much has been done with it since.
Sandy Hook was turned into public beaches, so there is lots of company if you want that sort of thing during the summer. But once the season is over, you will find very few people wandering around. While there has been an effort to preserve Fort Hancock’s buildings for some future purpose, for the most part, it is a lonely unvisited place. Of the many times that I have been there, I only once saw a car on the shore road and never ran into another human being.
On Christmas day, at 0530, I found myself again on this little island, just the fog and me. It’s not that I dislike people. Not at all. I just like my solitude to appreciate them better.
This place is filled with ghosts. Bring your own along, and it turns into the ghost subway at rush hour.
Alone while taking pictures (which is how I like it), I kept being interrupted by conversations from years ago and thoughts about things I might have done differently. I kept thinking, “Will you please shut up!”.
I lifted the camera and took this snap-in anger and shame (I guess that’s why my eyes are closed). It brought me back to the reality of my being right there… as old as I was feeling and still being followed around by a few unsatisfied ghosts.
For someone who doesn’t particularly like “spooky” situations, I do find myself in them with some regularity.
I hate being afraid. I’m a person who has spent their life-fighting anxiety over imaginary things with reasonably good success. So, when something causes me to become nervous, I usually just walk straight in. But, this age thing I hadn’t prepared myself for very well. Last May, I turned 65, and for the first time in my life, I wasn’t proud of my age; I replied when asked that I was 59. I would see the lie as I was saying it and make a mental note to examine it at some future point and avoid doing so as long as possible.
Looking in the LCD, I accepted those things that I had done, both good and bad, which I had avoided coming to terms with. And I had grown so damn tired of thinking about fearing growing older.
“Wow, that’s really me,” I surprised myself by being OK with it. Every one of those wrinkles and scars comes with an interesting story. Suprised also because I looked as if I was deteriorating faster than I could lower my standards.*
I emailed it to a woman I had been flirting with in Poland who had no idea what I looked like; I was OK with it. My ex-wife said I looked like I had been punched in both eyes or I was wearing eyeliner. The truth was I hadn’t slept much in the last 48 hours. That time of year doesn’t have the best of memories attached to it.
So my Christmas present to myself this year was a self-portrait. Not as pretty as some, not as ugly as others but definitely me.
Help Me Print “Women Hold Up Half The Sky” my Second Book.
My book ‘Subway New York City ‘1975-1985’ is available on Etsy.
Gerard Exupery has been a New York City Street Photographer for 40 years, He attended the School of Visual Arts and studied with Lisette Model at The New School. He has also worked as an oil rig roustabout, a photographer’s assistant, custom printer, motorcycle mechanic, audio engineer, video engineer, producer, and Mr. Mom. Exupery also drove a New York City taxi which he considers his post-graduate work.