Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Miss Manhattan Hangs Out...with Andrew Rizzardi

When I walk up to Stanton Street to meet Andrew Rizzardi, it looks like he has a new coat and his hair is especially shiny.

But it’s not Andrew, it’s Matt, who’s visiting him from out of town, and Andrew is sitting right next to him. Both with long brown hair and scruffy beards, they look like either fraternal twins, brothers, or cousins, but they’re just friends from college.

It’s fall, so that means Andrew is wearing a flannel shirt and drinking coffee. Andrew is always drinking coffee.

“Thanks for having me along, fellas!” I say.

“Of course, you’re a bro!” Andrew says, smiling, faint traces of irony in the word “bro.” In reality, Andrew is as far as you get from “bro” on the “bro” spectrum, if there is such a thing. But I use the word regularly to describe my friendship with him, my buddy in photography appreciation, my compatriot in exploring New York. We were introduced by a friend a few years ago now and, as I usually say, have not been able to get rid of each other since.

Today, we’re going to The Museum of Modern Art for the exhibition on photographer Stephen Shore. Both of us wanted to see it, plus Matt doesn’t mind tagging along, plus Andrew has to see it for class anyway. He’s taking continuing education classes in the evening at the International Center of Photography while also working a full-time job. Andrew has a master’s degree in international politics, but he’s thinking about making photography a more consistent part of his life. One of the things he has been working on is a photo series about his grandmother and her life in Jeannette, Pennsylvania, a small city outside of Pittsburgh not far from where he grew up. It’s inspiring to see a friend work hard to form a passion into a career. He’s already had the photo on the cover of a magazine, has been flown to Alaska to do video work, and is now building a website.

Andrew took Matt for bagels earlier in the day, so before going to the museum we get a snack. We walk over to Casa Adela, a Puerto Rican restaurant on Avenue C that makes, in my opinion, some of the city’s best food. Andrew and I share a half-chicken with beans and rice and plantains and Matt gets chicken noodle soup--but this is not your grandmother’s chicken noodle soup, unless of course your grandmother is Puerto Rican. It’s a pleasant surprise, brightly colored with spices and dotted with big chunks of chicken and vegetables and noodles. Sated, we head uptown.

Andrew walks around the Shore exhibition, looking closely at the photographer’s work, perusing his photo books. Some images don’t resonate with him, he says, but others are dumbfounding. “Elyssa!” Andrew waves me over to one image Shore caught, of what’s possibly an emu peeking through the tiniest space in a doorway. “Did you see this?” he asks, excited. “It’s the decisive moment!”

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