The Big Apple… organized chaos at its finest. You can lament about the ridiculous price of rent, congestion, noise and the endless amount of broken dreams. Or, you can relish the pure magic and energetic pulse of a city in perpetual motion.
What is not open for discussion is the endless array of photo opportunities. Everything from the architectural genius of the Manhattan skyline to the cultural diversity of Greenwich Village to the brilliant mind of Frederick Law Olmsted and his vision of Central Park.
Over the years, I’ve survived a plethora of NYC experiences. Most of them good and a few… let’s just say have been comical or frustrating.
Let me explain.
The first memory pertains to a street hustler. Basically, a clown dressed as the Statue of Liberty and silently charging ‘rent’ for anyone who wants a picture of him with his fake torch and NYC arrogance. On this particular evening, he was poaching the street corner opposite Radio City Music Hall. Standing on a milk crate afforded him an elevated perspective above the holiday crowds. I simply liked him in the foreground of my photo. I thought I could focus on him and blur Radio City Music Hall, or perhaps reverse the order and let him be an out of focus silhouette against he marquee. Either image seemed acceptable.
Every time I raised my camera to my eye though, he’d either turn his back or raise his arm to block his face. My original thought was this must be coincidental? I’m shooting with a short zoom lens and probably 20 yards away from him standing among of thousands of tourists. He can’t be turning because of me? However, as I learned, every time I raised my camera to shoot, he’d change his posture to alter (i.e. screw up) my image.
After this game continued for about 5-10 minutes, I walked up to the individual and explained what I was doing. In short, I wasn’t looking to have a picture taken with him (which lots of tourists do). Far from it. I simply wanted him as part of my wide angle holiday perspective.
He politely bent over from his perch and told me, “No money, no picture.” Hmmm…. was my first thought. Then I gathered my senses and in the spirit of Christmas thought, let me offer him $2 for his time. He again arrogantly responded with “There’s a $5 minimum.” This is where I lost my wonderful disposition and we exchanged a few pleasantries. I thought a wresting match was going to commence between me and the Lady of the Harbor… or at least the one standing in front of Radio City Music Hall on a milk crate.
Another historic and life changing event included having my car vandalized on 86th Street. The car being vandalized isn’t mind boggling for New York. If it never happened to a local, you’re more the exception than the norm. A sad fact of life. The terrifying part was the sudden realization that my large Tamrac camera bag missing from the trunk. This actually made me nauseous. For anyone who remembers these large bags, they allowed you to carry two of everything. This included almost every piece of camera equipment I owned at the time… two Nikon bodies, two flashes, several lenses and various accessories. Everything was gone in an instance.
This ordeal haunts me to this day. It was a violation of monumental proportions that occurred within a two hour time frame. I’m still jaded by this experience and to this day and leave nothing of value in my car when in NYC. You might say, I’m once burned & forever shy.
Regardless of a few poor memories, optimism wins out in the end. Life deals you a lemon now & then and you simply have to roll with it. You keep looking at the bright side of the picture.
So, without further rambling on my part, here are a few favorite images over the years (click to enlarge)…