Q&A with photographer Jon Plasse: Capturing memories at the original Yankee Stadium
When photographer Jon Plasse, 63, was a little boy, his father would take him to Yankee Stadium — but the home runs and strike outs aren’t what stick in his mind. Plasse, who lives in Manhattan, can’t forget the sense of the crowds, the look of the field or little moments with his dad at the old ballpark. In his first solo exhibition in the city opening this week, Plasse’s images depict the original Yankee Stadium before, during and after the park’s demolition in 2010.
Metro: Many of the images in “The Stadium” are shot with a childlike vantage point — why?
Plasse: The whole project is an effort to try to recreate what it was like for me as a kid. I remember going to the stadium and, you’re outside the stadium and there are these huge high walls, the surfaces of the walls are broken so the light will shine on the stadium and give it a glow. So it just feels like an enormous palace or something like that. … When I’d go inside with my dad, there’d be many, many people and you go through these dark hallways and you just have a real sense that you’re with your dad and lots of other kids are with their dads. So there was that comfort in terms of being together. And then you finally leave the hallways and you get to the place where you’re looking out on the field itself, it just has this dazzling green grass and the infield itself which is silky looking.
How often did you go to the stadium with your father?
I remember this period when I was 7 to 11 and maybe we’d go two or three times a year. So it wasn’t an enormous number of times. … My dad, like many dads, was very busy working and I didn’t have a lot of time to spend with him. And so I thought the baseball game was a special time because the two of us could spend all that time together. … It just became very memorable just in terms of an experience I had with him.
Is there a particular memory that sticks out?
My dad is taking me by the hand and we go to the ticket booth and he asks for, like in typical dad style, ‘Give me the best two tickets that you got.’ I remember the ticket seller, and he was this sort of gruff guy with a scar on his mouth, and back then he could smoke a cigarette while he was working. He says, ‘Here’s your tickets.’ So we got the two tickets and, of course, they were not the best tickets in the house. I just remember my dad trying to give me the best that he could and then going into the stadium together.
When did you start the project?
I started the project in 2004, taking photographs of the stadium. I would go there maybe 10 or 15 times a year. I kept on doing that through 2008. But midway though that process, the Yankees announced they were demolishing the stadium.
Some of the images in the show were published in a 2011 book, “The Stadium.” What else is part of this exhibition?
When the stadium was beginning to be torn down in 2009, I took some pictures of that process and some of those pictures will be in the show. I went there last summer where there are now 3 baseball fields anyone can use in place of the original stadium.
But the story of the original ballpark isn’t necessarily the focus of the project?
Over time, I got a clear idea of what I was trying to portray, which was a dad and his kid going to a baseball game — that story.
Why are the images in black and white?
That’s very much derived from the sense that black and white really evokes memory better than color photographs would.
What do you think of the new stadium?
There are a lot of good things about the new stadium. It’s much more open. … It’s not the place where my dad took me to baseball games. It’s not even the place where I took my own kids to baseball games. It isn’t a place of memories like the old stadium was.
More of Plasse’s work can be found on his website.
48 Orchard Street
Gallery is open Tuesdays through Sundays, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Exhibition on view from April 9 to April 19
“The Stadium” opening reception is April 9, 6 to 9:00 p.m.
Follow Anna Sanders on Twitter @AnnaESanders