Moises in the Promised Land

The Lincoln Town Car car pulled up at the Lens and Repro camera rental shop, on West 17th Street, where Moises used his dad’s credit card to put down the $3,000 deposit for a Leica M7 camera with a wide-angle lens. “Fortunately, we have the same name,” he said with a laugh.

As a child, he would ask questions of the various photographers who would be around the house. He knew better than to bug Patrick Demarchelier; similarly, now when Henry Kissinger is at the house, he lets him do the talking. But the photographers from, say, Town & Country magazine know how to use a camera, too, and he would listen closely.

Moises is building his portfolio. In the past few months, he’s gotten various paid gigs doing head shots for friends.

“I have a lot admiration for guys like Karl Lagerfeld who shoot all their own stuff,” he said. Next stop: Calumet Photographic, where he bought a pair of reflectors and $300 worth of film and rented two hot lights

He recently began a photo series on the homeless.

“There’s a certain humility and honesty. When you’re stripped down to this kind of level, you really have no choice but to be honest. It’s just, there’s no walls,” he said. “There’s no colognes, no after-shaves, no beautiful shoes—everything’s out there. If you’re sad, if you’re happy, everyone can see it—no walls.”

He allowed that his interest in the homeless might have something to do with his own humble origins. His family visits the D.R. at least three times a year.

Our last stop was to pick up prints at a photo processing lab on Christopher Street. Among the 8-by-12 color photos was a series he took of a girl he recently visited in Boston. Her coming out of the shower, and in a G-string smoking a cigarette on a couch.

“I’m telling you, man, I’m single now,” he said, smiling broadly. Flipping through the prints, he said that he felt extremely lucky to have parents that encouraged creativity. “I just want to make them proud,” he said.

Later over coffee at Dunkin Donuts, he said that the allure of flaky young girls had worn off.

“A big thing I’ve learned,” he said, “mostly because I read a letter that Benjamin Franklin wrote to his son about the importance of choosing the right mistress—it’s a good letter—he talks about how you should pick an older woman and why. I think in the first three years here in New York, I was all about young women, now it’s more like trying to find the whole package.”

He says he’s over New York nightlife.

“I love partying and I love having fun,” he said. “But in this city, man, there’s just so much, you gotta pick your battles.”

Last winter, he picked a battle and lost.

“I decided to go out with my bike, and I decided I’d take some acid and go to Beatrice. So I go and I make it fine,” he said. “Now it’s like 3, 4 o’clock and I’m wasted and I’m drunk, everything and above. And it comes to me: I have this bike. I have to bike home, and I’m in no condition to bike home. So I’m going and these psychedelic drugs, they distort your perception, so I’m riding really fast and I’m probably thinking I’m going cautiously.” He was careening up Broadway when the forces of the night turned against him. “I forget that there’s like this curb and I’m going fast and I forget to pull up, you know, simple move. So I go flying.”

The next day in the shower, he noticed that the whole right side of his body was bruised.

“Even that, man, I’ve been cutting down in my drug use,” he said. “I’m just trying to take everything in moderation in every part of my life. I don’t have an addictive personality or a drug problem, but I’m just one of those types of people who enjoy living life.”

Most nights after work, he’ll go shoot some photos, write in his diary or read a book. Right now he’s dividing his time between Walden, Rimbaud’s A Season in Hell and The Drunken Boat, and Goethe’s Theory of Colours—his dad’s reading that one, as well. He’s still looking for that “core group of legit intellectuals, free-thinking peeps.”

He was excited about the upcoming trip. “It’s nice to get away and reflect.”

As it turned out, he and the two lasses ended up staying at an inn in Kent. Just for fun, they attempted to set up the tent in the room, but it wouldn’t fit.

smorgan@observer.com

Moises in the Promised Land