The other day Sebastien sent me a message and asked about my favorite places in New York City to park it and shoot with camera in hand. This question sparked a couple of things for me. In truth photography has taken somewhat of a backseat in my life lately, which I try not to think about too much because it makes me sad. I excuse it with the same old nonsense (work, priorities, lack of inspirational situations), but the truth is I simply have felt like it was one more thing I had to do. Enter my growing interest in using an iPhone rather than lugging around multiple lenses, cameras, and film. By no means am I swearing off my Nikon dslr or trusty Polaroid SX-70, but the camera that’s in my pocket right now and everywhere I go is definitely worth exploring. Side-note: it’s a sad state of affairs when something you are passionate about becomes a chore. This post is the beginning of my quest to turn this around.
I wish I had some kind of heartwarming story about how a camera came into my life as a present from a well-loved relative and then turned into a great passion for me as an adult. The truth is I came to it later, in my mid-twenties on my honeymoon in Bermuda, in fact. The first photo I uploaded to Flickr on August 27, 2005 was a picture of a plumeria flower (of course it was) that I took with my point-and-shoot Canon Powershot A80, which I bought because it had a pretty sweet rotating digital screen…..I may be a nerd.
The truth is I don’t go to the City nearly as much as I’d like to. I know I take it for granted because it’s essentially in Albany’s backyard, and it often ends up being overshadowed by more “exotic” locales. However, as I thought about it, some of my favorite shots have occurred in NYC. It’s got everything you could want in a photographic environment: urban grit, a stunning variety of architecture, people galore (if you’re able to take photos of random strangers without looking like a creepy stalker – not something I have mastered yet), and an entire environment underground that offers a whole different view on society apart from it’s neighbor upstairs. In short, as I thought about it, New York City really is one of my photography meccas, and here are my favorite places to venerate it:
1) The Subway- I love public transportation no matter where I am, and if you are comfortable enough it can generate some pretty cool, slightly dangerous, usually unpredictable (depending on the subject) street photography. I’m a big baby and usually rely on the ability to snap on my iPhone without anyone knowing. Kind of creepy, I know. I can’t ignore the stations themselves, either. Lots going on there to be captured. Bonus: It’ll get you to all of these other places.
2) The Brooklyn Bridge – This is my #1 most favorite place in all of NYC. The lines are great, the light is awesome depending on what time of day you go, and you can never go wrong with the view, especially if you decide to make the approximately 1 mile stroll over to Brooklyn.
3) Chinatown – The clash of cultures fighting for dominance in this part of NYC is always good camera fodder. Plus, you can pick up some of my favorite NYC snack food, baked pork buns, at any of the seemingly hundreds of Chinese bakeries scattered throughout the area.
4) Grand Central Station – Every photog and their grandmother in NYC makes their way to GCS at some point. It may be cliche, but it’s totally worth it if you can figure out how to capture the light within the cavernous arrivals area. Also, great for people watching.
5) Central Park – Plan for a couple of hours and bring a willingness to walk. There is so much going on here, from a small zoo to Strawberry Fields, the makeshift John Lennon memorial, and even a castle (of sorts). I haven’t spent nearly enough time exploring the photograph-able nooks and crannies of this massive space, but it would be a shame to leave it off of the list.
6) Times Square at night – I know its totally touristy, but it’s also completely bright, shiny, and magical in that capitalist western society way that we Americans love so much (even if we pretend to have nothing but disdain for it). It can be as overwhelming as…well it’s overwhelming, but there are plenty of opportunities for some exciting nighttime street photography, especially as the weather gets warmer.
Obviously there are many more opportunities for exercising your shutter finger throughout the City, and these are just a sample of some places that have worked well for me in the past. Luckily, I can continue to hone my urban photography skills in one if the best cities in the world because this version of mecca is only a quick train ride away.