We have been friends online for more than a decade. We have watched our children grow up, our lives change, and our photography evolve. We had gotten together separately and even in small groups over the years, but never this particular group. When one of us suffered a loss, we finally decided to get together and scheduled a trip to New York to meet in person. It was a dream come true. On the main night together, we had dinner at Carmines, an Italian eatery that could easily accommodate all of us. Starting with Maite, who noticed the light through the sign for Carmine, we all followed and took our own version of the same sign. The following are images from that night and a few words from each of us.
It was an incredible gift. Gathering together around a table to share a meal and conversation after knowing each other for over a decade? Surreal. We’ve walked each other through so many life experiences and to be wandering NYC together felt like the very best dream! Heart full of gratitude!
As I walked towards the NY Public Library to meet them for the “first” time, I was so nervous I almost couldn’t breathe. I was so, so curious and excited, and the thrilling anticipation of finally being able to hug them was nerve-wracking. After years of shared connections and understandings, intimacy and memories that created our unique bond, I couldn’t believe we were finally going to make our connection tangible.
In the end, I needn’t have been so nervous. It was the way I imagined it would be. It was easy, warm and familiar. It was like coming home.
In some ways this trip felt a bit like an ending, a small good-bye. We all met, mostly, through Flickr, then kept up with one another on various other platforms. To see each and every one of you in person, it closed a door on that odd, online-only relationship. Now we are IRL friends with all the wonderful new connections that it brings, but there was a little piece of magic in that online world, something that seems to no longer exist on the internet. Knowing I will likely never forge a true friendship in that way again is a bit melancholy. Still, I would not change it; getting to hug you all was worth it.
In a time of deep grief, my girlfriends rallied, traveled, booked hotel rooms and made their way to my favourite city. We took New York by storm, filling every possible moment in this magical place! Late night chats, sweaty subways rides, museum strolls, miles of books, arm in arm walks, cameras and oysters! I will forever be grateful to these women who showered me with compassion and love.
I couldn’t quite believe it. After years of spending online time with these women, it was finally time to meet in person. As the day approached, the updates from everyone came in fast and furious. Trips to the hairdressers, issues with train lines, flights delays. But at last the time came and we were all together, waiting to be seated at the same table at Carmines. So many of us took images of this sign, all in our own ways. Maybe we did it from excitement, maybe partly from relief but I like to think it was the power of unity that inspired us all.
Truthfully, I felt anxious departing Philadelphia to catch the train North to NYC. I haven’t traveled much since the pandemic, and although I’d met most of the ladies in person or via zoom prior to this trip, I worried that I wouldn’t be enough for them. I worried I wouldn’t fit in. Silly in hindsight, but there it was, deep inside of me. Yet the moment I arrived–melting from the 95 degree heat–I felt warmth and understanding and kindness. I felt the kinship we’ve shared across 13 years of friendship online and in person. Above all, it felt a bit like coming home.
I’ve been going through a long-term creativity slump, and while I took very few photos on this trip, I found spending time with creative friends so inspiring! I am pretty sure I brought that inspiration home with me too.
I knew it would be a trip to remember, but I didn’t realize how much my heart needed to be with these women, all together in one space. We laughed, cried, talked, and talked over each other. It was magical.
~Staci Lee Kennelly