A Body in the Gowanus


NYPD Detective photographs body in the Gowanus Canal, Copyright Mark D PhillipsOver the years I heard all kind of stories about the reputation of the Gowanus Canal. You never knew what you might see in its waters. But on this beautiful day, I saw the worst, a human body.

I had gained a fascination with this putrid, stinking body of water that cuts through my neighborhood in Brooklyn. Sort of hidden from the beauty of Brownstone Brooklyn, the canal was surrounded by industrial buildings nestled in the lowlands between the gentrified neighborhoods of Boerum Hill, Cobble Hill, Carroll Gardens and Park Slope. It was a nowhere land with a toxic history. Today, it is a Superfund site.

My friend and colleague Kevin Larkin came with me to the Carroll Street Bridge over the Gowanus Canal so I could shoot a 360° photo of the bridge. You didn’t hang out on the Gowanus with expensive equipment alone for hours.

The Carroll Street Bridge is unique. One of the last drawbridges built to move laterally off the water, it’s architecture is truly spectacular with a dainty little brick house for the bridge tender. We were packing up equipment to leave when Kevin called me over to the bridge railing.

“Take a look at what that is floating in the water,” said Kevin. We could see a shape but couldn’t tell from the distance what it was. I pulled a telephoto lens and focused on the shape.

“Oh shit,” I said as I realized what we were looking at. I focused the length of the shape and realized the heels of shoes breaking the surface of the water were definitely attached to the feet of a body.


Satan in the Smoke


Satan In The Smoke, Copyright Mark D Phillips, 2001We never say the year. We don’t have to. It has joined the ranks of “Dates which will live in Infamy.”

I always loved the Twin Towers. Their box shapes dominated the skyline wherever you were. If you were lost in the West Village, you would just look for them and know that was south. They were comforting. They weren’t the prettiest buildings archetecturally, but they were grand. And when the sun hit them just right, they were twin pillars of gold.

The only reason I was home on September 11, 2001, was for a happy occasion. Andrea, Eliza and I were all going together as a family to Eliza’s first day of pre-school. We were up early, we were excited, and we had no idea what was really in store for us on that day.

It began with a shout from the living room. “Mark, come see this now!” my wife Andrea shouted.


The Spy (-der Monkey) Who Loved Me


The Spider Monkey who loved me at Lowry Park Zoo in Tampa, FloridaI learned first hand that primates are smarter than most of the people I know.

In 1987 while working as a staff photographer at the now defunct Tampa Tribune, I latched on to one of those long term projects that become a passion and change your life.

The old style Zoo for the City of Tampa had announced it was becoming the new style Lowry Park Zoo Association with state of the art natural habitats for all the animals. It was like a dream come true for a photographer. I immediately made contact with the management of the zoo.