Three Questions for Abeer and Josh
What is the significance of this work to you?
Abeer: In 2015, we made 3 short films to accompany the launch of my first book, The Lovers and the Leavers, using text drawn from that collection. Two years later, we made another 3 films for the publication of my memoir, Olive Witch. The process of making "Here I Love You, New York" went in the opposite direction, where I composed a poem inspired by a film Josh had already shot and edited, with music from our dear friend Nate Kinsella (Birthmark, American Football). Watching it now from a quarantined perspective makes the iconic and particular imagery feel like a time capsule, a nostalgic ode to the city we live in.
Josh: The passing of time is central to this one. I started putting pieces of the film together a couple of years ago, but the time-lapse footage was collected over the last decade. Of course, a different light lands on it in the wake of Covid19. Maybe it's because I've been on lock-down in my apartment for the last month, but the bustling corners in Chinatown and Times Square packed shoulder to shoulder are positively eerie to me now. It's hard to imagine how much time will need to pass before crowds, shared food, and handshakes will feel normal again.
What is the significance of the form you chose for this work?
Abeer: As a writer, I find the translation of my work into/onto film to be a delight, both surprising and meaningful. What a gift to get so many more layers, visual and auditory, to a written work.
Josh: What I love about time-lapse videography is the come-what-may approach. You point your camera at something, press the red button and hope that over the next ten-to-twenty minutes something interesting might happen. There's an element of surprise to it. Don't get me wrong, this approach can deliver some duds. But when something unexpected is captured, it fills you with the sense that beautiful things are happening all the time, but often too fast or too slow for us to appreciate.
What was the process for creating this work?
Abeer: It felt particularly satisfying to create new written work inspired by a visual piece, as if I were doing more than simply providing some of the material for Josh to make a whole film. Of course, Josh ended up editing the video and sound afterwards to "fit" the poem I had written, both thematically and with the soundtrack. So perhaps, he's doomed to always doing the heavy lifting!
Josh: I mean, "heavy lifting" is overselling it. It's more like Nate and I roughed out a video-instrumental, and Abeer came in to lay a vocal track over it. I shuffled some things around and it eventually came together—which, for me, breathed new life into clips I'd been sitting on for years. And, of course, it's bittersweet to revisit these places from a lock-down.
Abeer Hoque is a Nigerian born Bangladeshi American writer and photographer. She is the author of a coffee table book of travel photography and poems (The Long Way Home, 2013), a linked collection of stories, photographs, and poems (The Lovers and the Leavers, 2015), and a memoir (Olive Witch, 2017). See more at olivewitch.com.
Josh Steinbauer is a filmmaker and musician in New York City. His work includes the award-winning films Cap’n Flapjack and Paper Stars. His Americana ensemble Woodpecker! will release a new album this fall. Some of his short films can be seen at vimeo.com/joshs.