A bohemian on the road, a broke bohemian's budget, A plan for a budget NYC trip, A society without jaywalkers might indicate a society without artists., Among the Bohemians: Experiments in Living 1900-1939, Another option for sleep is on the subway trains..., art, artist, Back then you could get a roll of 100 feet in-date Tri-X for $7 and the chemicals were about a buck a gallon., bohemian, bus tickets for $1, busker, busker nyc, busker subway, censorship, dikes, Doctor's shower, dykes, for the rest of us bohemians...this is how we roll, Freestyle Ad, Good luck on your photo journey!, Greyhound ticket to NYC, hobo, hobo'in, hoboing, homeless nyc subway, I believe in making a project a reality for any artist no matter how meager the budget., I make due with the bohemians view!, I've slept on the train and never had a problem or had a cop bother me., If $31 for the subway is beyond your budget then you can always panhandle swipes from arriving passengers., If you want to go to Brooklyn to expand your territory, JFK, JFK NY, LaGuardia NY, Let me propose a bare-bones shooting marathon for broke photogs that want to shoot in NYC but can't afford it., linknyc, Lleu Christopher, Luggaloo...put a disposable bag in it before taking a shit!, Megabus, Money is one of those irritating needs that can sidetrack an artist from concentrating on doing their art., NYC, NYC can be a pretty cold place for beggars, NYC is a stupendous place to shoot., nylon cable ties for security, pacsafe, Paul Theroux, photography, Popular photography July 1962 Freestyle Sales Co. advertisement, Poverty denotes the lack of necessities, reviews, shooting in new york on a budget, Take responsibility for your own actions and don't blame me for a bad outcome., The lower Manhattan area I work in is about 13 square miles, travel, TV, Virginia Nicholson, W. Eugene Smith is a textbook example of the dedicated bohemian sacrificing life and family in order to do their art..., walk across the picturesque Brooklyn Bridge. You will have photo ops for the entire bridge walk., What works for me may be wrong for you - you may get killed or hurt if you do this., whereas simplicity denotes the lack of needs, working in new york on the cheap, Written by a bohemian for bohemians., YMCA, z lite pad
in honor of
“A society without jaywalkers might indicate a society without artists.”
I have always been self-funded with my photography. Since I’m not rich, being on a perpetual budget and cutting expenses to the bone is nothing new for me.
adjective: bare-bones; adjective: barebones
reduced to or comprising only the basic or essential elements of something.
“a bare-bones version of the story”
As such, I am sensitive to the plight of the poor, struggling artist that wants to take on a project but can’t afford doing it. So, let me propose a bare-bones shooting marathon for broke photogs that want to shoot in NYC but can’t afford it.
NYC is a stupendous place to shoot, every aspiring as well as serious street photog should have the experience of working in the capitol of street photography. Doing it bare-bones may not be pretty, but it will still allow you to get some NYC action in on a very meager budget. And for the non photog bohemians that want to see NYC…sure, come along for the ride!
Being a born bohemian, I have always concentrated on doing my art rather than trying to make a living. Consequently I’ve never earned / had much $ to blow on projects. If I can get by with some food, a roof, some SD cards and batteries I’m good. But that is how it usually is with most artists. Money is one of those irritating needs that can sidetrack an artist from concentrating on doing their art.
noun: Bohemian; plural noun: Bohemians; noun: bohemian; plural noun: bohemians
1. a native or inhabitant of Bohemia.
2.a person who has informal and unconventional social habits, especially an artist or writer.
“the young bohemians with their art galleries and sushi bars”
Well, you probably wont be eating at sushi bars if your a broke bohemian. Most artists don’t do art to make lots of money, they just care about producing their art. No one is saying it would not be nice to make some money. But for me it would have to come as a ‘no effort’ offshoot from my own work and not as the prime goal. The only time money comes into the discussion with me is when I ask the question…do I have enough money to do the project?
W. Eugene Smith is a textbook example of the dedicated bohemian sacrificing life and family in order to do their art…
This was Smith’s famed ‘jazz loft.’ I think the rent was $40 a month.
When Smith needed some cash he would pawn cameras and lenses. I had read when Smith died he had $18 in the bank.
Smith made use of a broken window as matte box.
W. Eugene Smith’s photo through the broken window pane.
When I first started in the late 60’s I got by on very little. I just needed a 100 feet of expired film from Freestyle, a few 10 cent film cassettes and a gallon of D-76, Dektol and fixer. (See footnote a).
A roll of 100 feet in-date Tri-X from Pan Pacific Camera on La Brea was about $7. If you were broke, Freestyle used to sell repackaged movie film for about $2.75 to $3.50 per 100 foot roll. For the real cheapskate, Freestyle had 100 foot rolls of oddball film for about $1.50. Your BW chemicals were about a buck a gallon for Microdol-X, D-76 and fixer.
Popular photography July 1962 Freestyle Sales Co. advertisement
Those were the days…everything was a lot cheaper back then, so panhandling a quarter or a buck went along way. You could even get a meal for a buck or under in the 1970’s. Nowadays photography is a real money sucking activity.
Los Angeles Diner 1971
Even if you not into people photography, the NYC’s architecture is jaw dropping. Once your shoot there your spoiled for shooting anyplace else when it comes to street work.
Bohemians View NYC
Personally I’m more into people than buildings, still I’d like to get some shots of NYC from the top of the Empire State Building. It cost $54 to take the elevator to the top. If you want to skip the long lines then expect to pay $80 for faster VIP service. I never have gone up since the cost is outside of my limited budget. I make due with the bohemians view!
Actually, when it came to NYC I could never afford to shoot there until I started to camp out in Jersey City. And while it still was not affordable, it was ‘doable’ budget wise for a few days. ($55 a day for parking your tent or $65 a day to sleep in your vehicle + taxes.)
Now, if your truly broke, then the ‘cushy’ Jersey City campout is going to be too expensive for you to swing. Beside the daily rent, you have to factor in gas and tolls roads if you drive and PATH cards from NJ to NYC.
There is also a big drawback to staying in Jersey City, it takes me 12 minutes to walk to PATH and sometimes another 30 to 50 minutes one-way to get onsite before I start shooting. If your already in Manhattan, as I will propose below, you will be way ahead of me. You won’t have to waste travel time back and forth to NJ.
Here is the formula for the broke bohemian on a bare-bones budget that wants to shoot in NYC…
Sad Buskers Times Square Infrared flash photograph (Candid)
You will have to decide if what I am about to tell you is right for you. This was written by a bohemian for bohemians. What works for me may be wrong for you – you may get killed or hurt if you do this. Take responsibility for your own actions and don’t blame me for a bad outcome.
The first thing you need is a one-way Greyhound ticket to NYC. If your in Philly, Boston or Baltimore, your in luck, you can get a one-way ticket for $10 to $12. And Pittsburgh isn’t far behind at $28. What a deal! You can get to Manhattan cheaper than it would cost you to drive – the Holland Tunnel toll is $15 alone.
Why get a one-way ticket? Well your broke. To come home you panhandle and get the fare while your shooting in NYC. If you got enough money upfront for a round trip then I highly suggest buy it. If you do buy a round trip you will save lots of money by buying ahead.
Megabus is also an option, but their travel options are a lot more limited than Greyhound.
Sometimes you can get last minute fares for next to nothing.
Back up link:
You may also want to consider the safety record of Megabus…
Back up link:
Above is a typical Greyhound bus interior.
Above is the interior of Megabus
Above is the Megabus toilet door
With Greyhound you can’t always get the cheaper ticket price unless you travel a week or more in advance, so you have to plan ahead. You can check out the rates at the library’s internet if you have no smartphone. (All I have is a $75 a year Tracfone from Wal-Mart.) All in all, having a R/T ticket in-hand is the best policy. You can relax and know you can get back home.
But as I said before, I’m writing this post for the brokest of broke bohemian, so that is who it is tailored to. I believe in making a project a reality for any artist no matter how meager the budget. If you’re looking to do your NYC shoot the traditional ‘camera fondler’ way, look elsewhere for advice. Go to Fodors, Airbnb and Priceline and see what you can put together…but for the rest of us bohemians…this is how we roll!
If you’re in Cleveland or L.A., then you had better come up with the money for a round trip upfront. As the $ you will need for a return ticket is a lot higher than a ticket back to Philly. (One way Cleveland = $48, one way L.A. = $129) You may have problems trying to panhandle that amount of $ in a short time.
…and I should warn you, NYC can be a pretty cold place for beggars.
Times Square Food Vendor Infrared flash photograph (Candid)
As long as you can get to the internet / smartphone you can get the cheapest Greyhound fare. Sign up for Greyhound Road Rewards and get lots of perks, including 10% of your first ticket. You can also save $ with student and veteran’s discounts. You don’t need a credit card to buy a ticket online, you can reserve your ticket online and pay for the ticket at an agent with cash.
Once you reserve your trip you will get a itinerary confirmation via email or phone. Bring your confirmation code to the ticketing agent, they will scan it and issue you a ticket.
You only have a two days to pay for it if you’re paying cash. Usually the Greyhound agents are 7-11’s, but not all 7-11’s are agents. To find an agent plug in the zip code of Manhattan where you’re staying at in the Greyhound website and they will give you a list of local ticket agents…there are tons of them in NYC.
Here is a map of the zip codes of Manhattan…
The 7-11’s don’t sell tickets offline without a reservation confirmation, they just are agents. There is a $5 ticketing fee for R/T and $2.50 for one way tickets on top of the ticket price. And don’t forget, you will need a valid photo I.D. for boarding the bus.
To buy a Greyhound ticket offline check with:
625 8th Ave
New York, NY 10018
If you want to travel in comfort you can take the train instead of the bus, but you will be paying a ton more money. The cheapest red eye Amtrak starts at $55 from Philly and they go up from there into the hundreds of $ for a one-way ticket.
Although I shoot a lot in NYC, I’ve never flown into NYC and stayed at a hotel. I can’t afford it. Actually, I seldom stay in a hotel wherever I go…I boondock. I sleep in my vehicle at Wal-Mart’s, rest stops, casinos, hospital parking lots, truck stops, gas stations, restaurants, a secluded side street…wherever I can get safe sleep. The closest I may get to a hotel is to sleep in their parking lot. I just can’t afford $75 to $100 a day for a hotel, I can barley afford the gas.
Back in the 1950’s you could get a cold water flat with the toilet ‘down the hall’ in the Village for $20 a month. Big artists’ lofts were not much more expensive than a flat. But those days are long gone. Nowadays, the artist must be very sharp to survive and do their art.
Cold Water Flat Daniel D. Teoli Jr. Archival Collection
When I need a shower every few days I shower at a truck stop for $10 – $13 or use the rest stop or supermarket bathrooms to wash up in. (When you sponge off in the bathroom stalls carry 2 small, wire ‘S’ hooks you make to hang up your clothes on the toilet door. Some doors don’t have clothes hangers any more.)
If your located near California you may want to fly into NYC as the R/T ticket on the bus is approaching what you pay for airfare. (About $375 R/T from L.A. via air)
From what they tell me, JFK is preferable to fly into if your using public transportation to get into town and LaGuardia is somewhat cheaper and faster to fly into, but a little harder to get public transport. But this information varies with who I talk to.
JFK seems pretty easy to get to the subway. You take the JFK Express/Air Train to Queens and change to an E train to Manhattan. For LaGuardia you take the M60 bus to the subway. Someone else told me taking the Q bus makes it is easier to get to the subway via LaGuardia than JFK. I dunno, you check out all the details for yourself.
Here are a few links for JFK and LaGuardia airports that will help you get into Manhattan. Even if flying in, you still use the rest of the broke bohemian plan I lay out here.
If going by bus, use this Greyhound bus station as your final destination in Manhattan.
625 8th Ave
New York, NY 10018
If you have a friend in NYC see if you can stay with them. If not, then your home away from home will be at:
Grand Central Station
89 E 42nd St
New York, NY 10017
If you have a friend in Hoboken, Newark or Jersey City to stay with them you can take the PATH into NYC. It is very easy, just more expenses and time consuming…but at least you got a house to sleep in and a warm shower.
If your friendless in NJ and NYC, then when your finished shooting for the day, you curl up on the floor in a corner of Grand Central, homeless style. (If you don’t like to think of yourself as homeless, then think of yourself as hobo’in. If none of those options appeal to you, stop reading now…your not bohemian enuf!)
In an intro to his review on Amazon of Among the Bohemians: Experiments in Living 1900-1939 by Virginia Nicholson, Lleu Christopher distills what fuels the bohemian life.
“Nicholson has a genuine appreciation for the bohemian spirit, and acknowledges the sacrifices made by many obscure artists, poets and others existing (often marginally) at society’s fringes. For some, the idealistic decision to forsake conventional society for a life dedicated to art, romance, poetry or perhaps a vaguer idea such as beauty or authenticity was never rewarded with any kind of material success. Was there any compensation for those living such marginal lives? Nicholson makes the case that for many, a life dedicated to art, romance and freedom is its own reward. For those who embody the bohemian spirit, material comforts and security are not worth the price of suppressing one’s creativity and individuality.”
You can also bed down at Penn Station for a change of scenery, as well as the subway. If you don’t like sleeping on the floor, go to a busy transport hub for safety and sleep on the bench.
‘Poverty denotes the lack of necessities, whereas simplicity denotes the lack of needs.’ ~ Dervla Murphy
You goal, while on the street, is to travel as light as possible while taking all the basics you need to get the job done. Work on simplifying your street kit to the bare essentials.
At least you wont have all your life’s possessions to haul around…
If you do sleep on the floor and don’t have a pad, bring a trash bag to sleep on or find some cardboard. The floor can be kinda grimy. Sniff out your spot to make sure it wont ‘stink you out’ when your trying to sleep. In a pinch you can also use 2 subway maps folded out to sleep on. They are a little under 2 x 3 feet each.
If you have a few extra bucks pick up a Z Pad. They fold up and weigh next to nothing. Strap it to your pack and you got a cushy and warm pad for sleeping on. If your not sleeping well you wont do your best work shooting. Being young sleeping on concrete may not phase you, but as you get older you may need something cushy to get some sleep.
In the daytime, Central Park is also a sleep option for getting in some winks. If you’er something of a vampire by nature, shoot most of the day and night and sleep daytime in Central Park. Find an area that is kinda quiet, put in some earplugs or use toilet paper to plug your ears. It also helps if you can get some eye shades. Wal-Mart had some shades for a buck last time I looked.
Some parts of Central Park are OK to sleep in day or night, other parts are not. Study it up before you bed down at night there. But generally speaking, near the richer areas are safer. The city has gotten tougher and may ticket you or arrest you if your caught sleeping in the park at night. You check it out…
Although it is probably too expensive for the broke bohemian, the Pacsafe is a good tool to prevent theft when your on the street / subway sleeping. I bought mine used on eBay. Don’t attach it to a pole and leave it, security may think it is a bomb. Stay with your gear.
If you can’t afford a Pacsafe, them sleep with your arms woven through the pack or rig a bike lock you can attach to the pack and your belt and use the pack for a pillow. If you using a pack as a pillow with no lock or security someone could rip it out from under your head and take off with it.
Another security option is to use long nylon ties to secure the pack to your belt or someplace on your body while you sleep. Just make sure you have a knife or a pair of dykes to cut the strap.
While your on the bus and at rest stops you shoot. Same thing in the subways or on the trains. Every step of your journey going and coming…shoot. Make the most of your trip.
Subway NYC (Candid)
Grand Central has nice clean bathrooms and a big, beautiful interior that you can bed down in for some sleep at night. It is a good place to start panhandling some of the money you will need to get back home, but be low key about it.
Grand Central Station NYC (Candid)
I mean, you are homeless right? So while your sleeping put out a cup or sign saying ‘anything helps to get a meal’ or ‘stranded and trying to get a bus ticket back home’ and maybe you will wake up with some loose change. Just write it big and clear so it is easy to read.
Busker Las Vegas
Here is a rundown on sleeping pads. I recommend the 3/4 Thermorest, that is what I use myself. It rolls up into hardly nothing. (But I think it may be extinct now.) I bought an old, beat up one at a thrift store for $5. It has a slow leak and only holds air for 6 or 7 hours, but it gets me by.
A Metro card is about $31 a week for unlimited use.
Sometimes you can find a discarded card that is empty and you can refill it with a 7 day pass without having to buy a new card. You can save $1 if you do this. Just scan it in the reader to see what the balance and stats are with the card. (If you are 65 or older or have disabilities you can save 50% on the weekly unlimited Reduced Fare Metro Card.)
If $31 is beyond your budget, then you can always panhandle swipes from arriving passengers. (You wont have much luck from outgoing passengers as the unlimited card can’t be used for 18 minutes after the last swipe for the same route.) You can also use the Metro card for bus rides. (That was what I was told. I never use the bus.)
If someone asks you for a swipe, ask them for .50 or a buck. When your packing up to go home, see if you can sell your card with the remaining balance to someone for a deal. If you bought a weekly pass it will expire worthless when you leave, so try to get something out of it while it is alive.
Whether you’re boondocking in your vehicle or sleeping on a city street, it is always good to have a plan B, C, D and Z if things don’t work out with plan A. Another option for sleep is on the subway trains…
Subway NYC (Candid)
Late at night the subway is not as busy. You can stretch out on one of the seats.
When it comes to subway sleepers, the city wavers between trying to clean up the subway or letting it go. I’ve slept on the train and never had a problem or had a cop bother me. Whatever you decide, be careful if you sleeping on an empty train.
The lower Manhattan area I work in is about 13 square miles, (Manhattan total is 22.82 square miles, 13 miles long and 2.3 miles wide at its widest point.) So if you got good shoes and feet you can just walk around without a Metro card and shoot while your walking. If you want to go to Brooklyn to expand your territory, walk across the picturesque Brooklyn Bridge. You will have photo ops for the entire bridge walk.
I’m old, got bad feet, ankles and legs. So I am limited on my walking. That is why I don’t cover much of Manhattan. Even taking the Metro everywhere and cutting walking to a minimum, my feet and legs act up bad. Some days I just stand on the corner and take photos of people walking by as my feet are so sore. Not a good way to do street work, but that is how it can be when you get old. So make the most of your photography while your young and have the health and energy to do it right.
Being young, you can cover all 5 Boroughs – Brooklyn, Queens, Manhattan, The Bronx, and Staten Island. The 5 Boroughs encompass over 300 square miles, so don’t expect to cover it all on one trip. The point is, one can never see it all when it comes to NYC. Everyplace you wander has outstanding photo ops, so you will be shooting day and night.
Free NYC and vicinity maps can be had at any 24 hour subway booth. The map does not have all the streets in it but you can get to the area and ask directions for fine tuning things. Subway maps are also on the wall in every train and subway station.
If you want a more detailed street map, you can get a free ‘Where® IN New York Map’ at most hotels You can ride the ferry to Staten Island for free. Take the Metro to Whitehall St. and your there. Great photo ops on the Ferry as well as Staten Island.
Staten Island Ferry – NYC (Candid)
For the ferry I think you take the downtown 1,4,5 R or W trains. You check it out, I’m no expert, I still get lost all the time. But that is the beauty of NYC, you can’t get ‘too lost’ in Manhattan. You can pretty much see the WTC from anywhere in lower Manhattan.
For food you can live very well on Subway sandwiches. Tons of locations in Manhattan. Even one at your home base.
Grand Central Station
52 Vanderbilt Ave
You can get ‘the sub of the day’ for $3.50. If you want to pick and choose, order subs with a good mix of protein and vegetables. Always ask if they can pack it with some extra meat and veggies when they build them custom. Try for low sodium meals so you wont have to drink too much and wont have to pee so often. While public bathrooms can be found in NYC, they are not always easy to find when your bladder is bursting.
You can also find some greens in Central Park during the growing season. Forage for dandelions greens, purslane, etc. Get a book on foraging before you leave from the library and study it up. Don’t eat wild mushrooms unless you want to die. Now, I’m not up to date with all the laws in NYC, so do your foraging stealthy. I had heard a guy was arrested (albeit decades ago) for criminal mischief for removing vegetation from the park.
I always try to pack a few envelopes of powder milk on my trips. I can mix some in a bottle of water and get extra nutrition or make some reconstituted milk for cereal. If you do mix milk in your one and only water bottle, make sure you rinse the bottle well when your done.
Diane Di Prima (the photo below is probably one of her from her art model days.) used to buy a nickel cup of coffee in the 1950’s, dump some of the coffee out and load it up with milk for nutrition and sugar and energy. That is how you must be with you if your a broke bohemian. You always have to be looking out for that ‘little extra’ to make it.
Daniel D. Teoli Jr. Archival Collection
If your panhandling efforts do not pay off after a day or two after arrival I suggest you cut back on your food allowance to save that $ for a ticket home. You also need to get more aggressive at your begging. You can try going from train car to train car on the subway and asking for spare change to get back home. Tell people your stranded and are trying to raise a few dollars for a bus ticket home. Your not lying, your not doing it for a day job to buy heroin, your telling the truth. Here are some tips:
If you have a talent for entertainment also consider busking. Just keep in mind whatever props you bring should be small so they don’t interfere with your main goal of shooting photos. A harmonica or flute would be good…a guitar, violin or typewriter would not.
Free Poetry Busker Subway NYC (Candid)
If your too broke for a daily Subway sandwich, get a jar of peanut butter and a loaf of cheap bread. Maybe you can scrounge some jam packs and plastic spoons at the local Mac D’s. You will be too broke to buy jam, so the cheap bread and peanut butter is about it for you. You need something to spread the butter, so get some plastic cutlery. And don’t forget to check out Central Park to supplement your diet with foraged greens.
While your at Mac D’s, if someone leaves an edible portion of food and takes off, clean off the table for them. Put the tray on the dirty rack and pocket the leftovers. If they are going to trash some of their meal ask if you can have it. May not be pretty, but it beats eating out of the trash can anyway.
Here is the deal, you can’t make a career at it, in other words, don’t overstay your welcome. Get a tray or two and take off before you call attention to yourself and they ask you to leave. You can always go to another shop, tons of them n NYC. Once your done eating…start shooting! (See footnote b)
Also check with small food shops, markets, green grocers, fast food, cheese shop, bakeries, etc. Ask them if they have any produce or food they are trashing. A lot of time the food just has a small defect or mold spot on it.
Carry a small penknife for cleaning up food you find. Just don’t carry a monster knife the police will hassle you over. Every city has their own laws, so check it out. If you get an orange you can peel the orange skin very gingerly and leave most of the white pulp on the orange to eat. It is nutritious and helps fill you up.
If your too broke for a jar of peanut butter and a loaf of cheap bread and don’t want to clean off the leftovers, or dumpster dive, check out…
The Bowery Mission:
They may also help you with a place to sleep for as few days. There are lots of other places you can get some charity food if your broke, research it before your trip. I’m giving you a lot here, but I can’t breastfeed it all to you…
Newlywed couple on their honeymoon
If the food pantry feeds you, offer to do an hours work in exchange for the food. Bohemians can fall into the trap of ‘the world revolves around me’ syndrome. Give back a little once in a while.
Now here is the bottom line with food…if your healthy and normal weight, you wont starve to death for 4 weeks if you don’t eat anything. So don’t be so frantic if you miss some meals. Just drink some water, as you can die of dehydration in a week if you don’t drink anything.
If your going the broke bohemian route I recommend you go to NYC in the Spring or Fall. When the weather is cool, or maybe I should say comfortable. You wont sweat as much, there are less bugs, less need for showers and you wont need to carry heavy clothes for the cold.
Another benefit of cool weather trips is you wont need a lot of water to drink. Bring a water bottle when you head out for your trip and keep refilling it on the road. Just be sure to rinse it out one in a while so the water does not get too funky. Keeping de-funked can be a challenge when you living on the street.
Barefoot homeless man with soiled pants eating from the trash – Los Angeles
For showering or clean up you got a few options. The best one is to get a day pass for free from the YMCA
Just email any of the NYC Y’s ahead of your trip and they will send you a day pass. Or you could print out this one. (Although the design may change and mine may not be up to date.) And don’t forget to bring a padlock for your locker. Bring a small disposable face towel to dry off with after your shower and a mini bar of hotel soap.
You can also wash up in the bathrooms at Grand Central. It used to be you could bed down at a Y for $5 in the old days. Now it is more like $150 a day in NYC. Well, time moves on and that is why you freeze time, isn’t it…you can stop time!
Remember I told you about the ‘S’ hooks to hang your clothes on in the restroom? The hooks are very handy for keeping the water flowing when you are bathing in a public bathroom or rest stop. Carry a few hooks and a small length of chain to defeat spring loaded auto shut off faucets.
Nowadays many of the public toilets have gone over to electronic faucets. You can defeat them by using small post-it notes to cover the electronic sensor.
Even though they will still shut off in 45 seconds – 90 seconds, you can get more time out of it for bathing. Just remove the paper from the sensor, wait a few seconds and reapply for more water.
All rest stops don’t have public showers, buy a few do. Use your chain and hooks to keep the water flowing.
I also carried various faucet handles and keys with me while on the road, as rest stops many time remove them so people can’t use the water faucet. Carry a 6 foot hose with you and you got a shower!
If your too busy to shower at the Y, bring along a mini pack of wet wipes to clean your ass up so you wont end up in one of my photos.
In the old days you could rent a locker for .25 to .50 at the bus / train station. When terrorists got to work the lockers were all taken out. Too easy to store a bomb in the lockers. Nowadays, if you need to park your gear you can do it for about $8 – $10 a day per bag at Schwartz.
Take old underwear and trash them when your done to lighten your load. Weigh everything you take and keep the weight to a min. It is no fun carrying around a lot of stuff on your back day and night.
A boondocking trick for getting by with 1 pair of underwear is to turn them front to back and in and out to get 4 uses out of them. You should get 8 days out of them easy, then trash them. Wearing 1 and taking 1 should yield you 14 to 16 days of wear minimum.
In an emergency you can wash you clothes in a bathroom sink and set them out to dry in the park on a tree or bench…but did you really come to NYC to waste time doing laundry? A less time intensive way to dry your washed socks is to hook them on your backpack to dry. As you go about your biz they will dry in a few hours.
This is what I use for shampoo…it is 3-1/2 inches long and fits in the palm of your hand.
Keep your hair crew-cut and you can prob just get by with a rinse in the sink and blow dry with the bathroom hand blower. Better still is to cut your hair all off and shave off your body hair too – hair holds grease and bacteria. If your only going to take a shower or two on your trip you an use the mini shampoo for your hair and as a body soap. That will save you from carrying extra weight.
If you have unlimited water and time a ‘doctor’s shower’ will keep you clean longer between showers. I learned it from a surgeon. He told me he washes his hands and arms for 20 minutes before surgery. I applied that idea to my body and wash it and shampoo my hair 2 or 3 times depending on how much time, soap, shampoo and water I have. It helps keep me clean longer. Taking 3 showers at one time dries the skin and hair out, but I’m not going in a beauty contest, so I don’t care.
A superlight nylon windbreaker works great for cold and rain. It really makes a difference with keeping the cold wind out. If it does rain, go shoot inside subways and the museums. I think the Met only asks for a donation for a ticket. If so, give them what you can spare. If your broke, go panhandle .50 and give that to get in. Lots of photo ops as well as inspiration in art museums.
Girls have to be extra cautious, I don’t rec you go the ‘living on the street route.’ Save up a little extra, take the bus and go to a hostel. But, if you must sleep on the ground, get some good pepper spray and don’t look too pretty…if you advertise, you may get a customer. I use this in the Rustbelt, but it is illegal in NY /NJ. So you decide what to use.
The safest route for a girl wanting to boondock is to park at Weehawken Ferry public parking lot, preferably in a van for privacy and pay $19 a day to park and take the ferry back and forth to sleep in your van or car. Just do it stealthy, as the Ferry lot frowns on boondocking.
Port Imperial Garage
500 Port Imperial Blvd
Weehawken, NJ 07086
This plan will add the cost of a weekly ferry pass to your budget and they are not cheap. Don’t try to boondock at the parking lot at the Jersey City marina on Marin Blvd. It is cheaper, ($13 a day) but if 24 hour security catches you boondocking they will boot your vehicle and you will have to pay a huge fee to get it unbooted.
Daniel D. Teoli Jr. Archival Collection
Whether male, female, trans, androgynous or bigender, if you’re living in your van or car these items can come in handy…
Luggaloo…put a disposable bag in it before taking a shit!
Urinal bottle…Save $8 and use a water bottle you find in the trash. But not as easy as the wide mouth urinal.
And a ‘Lady J’ for the gals
When sleeping in your vehicle leave the windows cracked about 1/4 inch to allow for air circulation. A sleeping bag, power inverter to change 12v to 110v and a 12v battery charger for your camera and cell phone are also useful. Almost a must for stealthy boondocking is tint or cover the windows for privacy. If you don’t have a sleeping bag find some newspapers to lay out for insulation and get an old blanket at the thrift store.
A boondocking trick I use is to make a 25% alcohol dilution with 75% water in a quart bottle. I use that on a washcloth to clean up. Then I rinse the washcloth out with water and go over my body to wash the alcohol off. This is only good if you have a vehicle to live in as carrying around big bottles of liquid get heavy while on the street.
Vince Lombardi Park & Ride in NJ offers a possibility for (male) boondocking.
Be advised the transit does not run all the time from Vince Lombardi and it can be dangerous to sleep there. I wont boondock there unless it is an emergency.
If you need a camera for your trip check out the early Pentax DSLR’s or an Olympus M4/3. A Pentax K100D Super 6MP DSLR w/18-55 DA zoom lens can be had on eBay for $85 – $100. If you want a prime, the old Pentax manual 50mm f2 lenses go for $15 – $25 each.
If you think 6mp is no good, think again. Beside not being good form under the auspices of ‘beggars can’t be choosers,’ I’ve put many 6mp photos into museums and curated collections round the world.
Here are 3 examples of what you can do with 6mp’s…
…no museum ever asked how many mp’s Faces of Gentrification was.
But, the ‘bargain of bargains’ for the bohemian photog is the 12mp Olympus E-PL1 M4/3. They go for next to nothing on eBay. You can pick one up with the kit zoom for $75 and up. While your at it, pick up an back-up body for $45. When you’re on the street you have to be self-sufficient. The last thing you want is for your only cam to go on the proverbial fritz and your trip is ruined.
I used M4/3’s extensively for almost a year. They can produce outstanding results for such a small package. The downfall of the M4/3 is they are hard (at least for me) to manually adjust on the fly. I’m an old film photog and used to the manual controls we had on our film cams in the 60’s-70’s. I’m just no good at figuring out these new menu driven cams. With the M4/3 I would have to shoot it on the dummy setting.
Here are some examples of what an M4/3 they can do…on the dummy setting.
Don’t forget to bring some lens tissue and a small bottle of lens cleaning fluid. If you don’t have any, stop by B&H and ask if they can help you out with a free clean job. They may also let you plug in to charge your battery. You can also use toilet paper you pick up and some water or fog from your breath to clean your lens. TP from public toilets also works good as a Kleenex substitute if you get a runny nose.
When you get back home, showcase your NYC work. Make a blog called Bohemian on the Street or View from the Street or whatever you like. Photos are meant to be viewed, don’t let them die with you, get them out there. When you save up enough $ for another one-way to NYC hit the road again for some more photos. The more you visit NYC, the more comfortable you will get shooting there.
You can also make an artist’s book with your work. While book printing cost $, any broke bohemian can make a website just like this for free using your local libraries internet. Or you can make a pdf book and put it on the net.
Speaking of free internet…here are some options for free internet and USB charging options in NYC.
Port Authority Bus Terminal (PABT)
625 8th Ave
New York, NY 10018
767 Fifth Avenue
New York, NY 10153
Apple Store – World Trade Center
185 Greenwich Street
New York, NY 10007
Also check out hotel lobbies, fast food shops, libraries, etc. for a charge.
A good travel guide on NY is DK’s Eyewitness NYC.
Get it from your library for free or buy last years edition for .05 (plus $3.99 shipping) on Amazon. If you buy the book you can rip the pages out that you want to save weight carrying it. Comes with a good NYC map as a bonus.
Cargo pants or cargo shorts make good travel clothes. Lots of pockets and they hold up under abuse. I like camo color myself, as they don’t show the dirt.
Spring is round the corner, better start planning your trip. Who knows…if you take eye pleasing photos that don’t offend anyone maybe a camera company will sponsor you for cushy junket trips where you can actually sleep in a cheap hotel with bed bugs for your shoot.
Good luck on your photo journey!
(a) When I first started to shop at Freestyle’s old location in 1969/70 they were more of a dusty warehouse type of shop with rows of shelving you could dig through. I remember buying some ex-military 4 x 5 glass plates that had expired in the early 1950’s. They still worked great! Freestyle specialized in expired military surplus film back then.
(b) I told someone about cleaning off the tables to eat the scraps and he could not bring himself to do it. I thought back when I had eaten some scrap apples the animals left behind partially eaten on the ground. I just washed them off and cut away the portion the animals ate…they were delicious!
(c) Photos of Greyhound bus, products, map and YMCA day pass are from the internet and used under the auspices of ‘fair use’.
From Girls of the Beat Generation
A forthcoming 6 volume artist’s book series by social documentary photographer Daniel D. Teoli Jr.
A complete list of artist’s books by Daniel D. Teoli Jr.