42 and 40 Troy Avenue, Brooklyn

Early one Thursday morning I bicycled out to Troy Avenue to capture an example of siding used to maximum decorative effect. These properties are situated in a block along which there is no parking on Mondays and Thursdays from 8-9:30AM, and I hoped to make a picture free of foreground cars. At 8:05 only the black jeep you see below remained. I asked the woman sitting in the driver’s seat, waiting for the street-sweeper, if she wouldn’t mind pulling up just a few feet to clear the frame.

“This is my house, why do you want to take a picture of it?” She had a strong Jamaican accent. “I am the owner.”

The real-estate photographer in New York City cannot help but be a suspicious fellow. To photograph a house, especially in a rapidly changing neighborhood, is immediately to mark oneself as a speculator, a shady trader, a litigator or insurance adjuster.

I offered that “I collect images of this particular pattern,” a preposterous and almost Trumpian claim. The car did not move. The driver-side window was rolled down only an inch or two, the bare minimum to permit communication. This was perhaps because of the heat of the day, or perhaps because I had quickly revealed myself to be unstable, and possibly deranged.

“Did you put this siding on yourself?” I asked. “I mean, did you have it put on during your ownership?”

“Yes, but that was more than twenty years ago.”

“I suppose I’m an architectural historian,” I said. “Do you own both buildings?”


“Did you do them both at the same time?”


Despite this detente, there will be no accommodation of patently absurd requests. I crossed the street to take my picture. The car remains.

There is no law preventing the photographing of buildings in New York City, so long as the photographer remains on public property, but there is no adequate way to apologize for the intrusiveness of the act. I have walked out of my own house to discover someone taking pictures of it, and only just managed to avoid becoming irate.