Sense of Place #4: Tao Lin, NYU Library

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Tao Lin
Place: NYU Library
Click image to enlarge.

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This photograph shows me standing outside my house, which looks weirdly much bigger here than it actually is when you see it in person. It’s not really this huge, not in concrete reality, when you’re looking at it from across the street or from, say, a low-flying helicopter. Most people comment on the size when they see my house in person, but I think most people who have seen my house in person would also definitely agree that it’s not as huge as it looks in this photograph, which seems to have been taken when my friends were getting ready to install the outdoor, glass-walled elevator for me as an early birthday present (or, I guess, by the time it’s completed it will be near my birthday, so just a normal birthday present, except that I can see its construction). Notice the sort of halved tunnel by my head that ascends out-of-view, ending in an elegant sort of “doming” construction at, I believe, the 19th floor. I usually try to “grow” my Christmas trees from October 14 to December 3, then move it inside. By “grow” I mean I have it be planted in the ground, in nature, in Washington Square Park, getting the nourishment that any tree would get, so that December 3 until December 28 (the day we cut it into 14 pieces, which we then bury, in a minor ritual, in Central Park), when my Christmas tree is in my house, there’s just a little more vitality than if I’d ordered something off some website. The posture, the sort of natural architecture of the branches and the overall shape, pointing vertically up at my favorite chandelier that has a ceiling fan sort of attached to it, is just a little more to my liking than if, like I already said, I ordered something off some website—some evergreen conifer, or whatever’s “in” these days, with its lower half wrapped in a kind of bag containing humid soil and probably the upper half would be tied toward itself by rope tightly, destructively.

The shadows you see on the left side of the photograph are, I’m 99.9% certain, cast by my Christmas tree, which I think I’m actually looking at—it’s, like I said, just across the street in Washington Square Park—in this photograph, though also I may be looking at someone walking a dog or a taco truck.

Tao Lin


Brad lives in New York and photographs subjects around the world. His portrait work earned him the PDN award for the 30 Best Emerging Photographers of 2007. He also directs and acts as DP on documentary and commercial film and video projects. Communication Arts recognized his work with the Jury Prize for Cinematography. His first foray into music videos premiered at the Sundance Film Festival. His clients include: Esquire, Time, Smithsonian, The Washington Post Magazine, The New York Times Magazine, People, Forbes, Lexus, Money, ESPN and Universal Records. More from this author →