The Meadowlands

Growing up in New Jersey, I always felt a sense of awe when the commuter train passed through the Meadowlands on the way to Manhattan. My grandmother grew up in the area (she was mortified by the smell of local pig farms), and my father passes through it every day on his commute. The Meadowlands is an enigmatic combination of the industrial and natural, a toxic wasteland rich in history, myths, and fascinating wayfarers, some of whom became my friends. Between 2006 and 2008, I journeyed to the NJ Meadowlands on a regular basis from my tiny Brooklyn apartment. My visits were a wandering/escaping/discovering: I snuck through a fence and climbed Snake Hill; I watched trains pass by; I trudged up foul smoldering landfills the size of hills; I was questioned by police officers; and I observed rare birds like the Solitary Sandpiper. My feelings of freedom were tempered by fear: the solitude brought risks and I had a can of mace on me at all times in case of an encounter with one of the notorious packs of wild dogs. The decaying industrial wetlands were a springboard for my imagination: I imagined my dad getting out of the train at the Secaucus Station and walking into the weeds, much like the character in John Cheever’s short story “The Swimmer” walks into the Lucinda River. I was always in the shadow of the train line that began near my childhood home. The resulting photographs are simultaneously an interior landscape and an ode to a beautiful urban wilderness.