Friday, December 09, 2011

Remembering Jose Gaytan, Photographer

Jose Gaytan
Photo courtesy of Francis Janik
Photos by Jose Gaytan
Nobody captured the raw beauty of the Gowanus Canal quite like my friend and photographer Jose Gaytan, who documented the heavily polluted waterway almost daily for the last few years.  Often, I would run into him along the Carroll Street bridge, a camera around his neck, Lola and Rudy, his two dogs, patiently sitting by his side, while he adjusted the aperture.
Sadly, Jose passed away on Wednesday after a valiant fight against Multiple Myeloma.  He had just turned 61.  With him, Brooklyn lost not only a great artist, but also one of the most dedicated chronicler of the rapidly changing Gowanus area.
To most, the Gowanus is a decrepit industrial wasteland, but to Jose, the water, the wide open sky, the old bridges, and the dilapidated structures surrounding it were magical.  Even the toxic sheen on the water's surface was worthy of documentation and through his lens, took on an eerie delicacy.
Jose and I first met three years ago.  At the time, his photo series of the canal was displayed in a show entitled " Brooklyn In Transition" at the Brooklyn Public Library.  I was busy writing about the proposed rezoning of the Gowanus area, of developers ready to tear down the old to replace with the new, and of the EPA's designation of the canal as a Superfund site.
Often, Jose would send me his latest image of the Gowanus so that I could share it with my readers. Last winter, he wrote to me:  "I am still documenting the neighborhood. I am looking at it from a graphic arts point of view; shapes, shadows, etc...etc...Feel free to post."
Recently, he had  begun taking panoramic portraits of Gowanus residents.  He included a photo of me, entitled "Gowanus Canal Watchdog."  
Jose left behind an invaluable gift to this community. It is loving tribute to a long neglected area, and no matter what its future, Jose's photos will become part of its history.
I will miss him very much.

To read more about Jose, click here.
I would like to thank Francis Janik for the use of his photo of Jose.


knithound brooklyn said...

Thank you, Katia. This is just lovely.

Margaret said...

I can't believe Jose is gone. The show he had at the library was exquisite. This is very sad news. He was a true artist.

Anonymous said...

I am so sorry. He left amazing images. I hope they are
Protected. What a soulful eye.

elise said...

His View of Gowanus taken from the Union St. bridge that looks like the View of Delft is THE iconic picture of that vantage point of sky, water, land in Gowanus. It is a poem. It has so much feeling, captures so much I can't put into words. My sincere condolences to his family.