Forty-Second Street, New York City, New York, 2016
This photograph tells its story by contrasting a sea of pedestrians at the bottom of the frame to the massive display of colorfully lighted marquees that fill the rest of the shot. The image is packed with details calling attention to the attractions on display here. Every inch of this image screams for such attention. The effect is both chaotic and energetic. This is what gives the city’s Times Square area its identity and purpose, and makes the phrase "Forty-Second Street" universally understood.
Echo, Theatre District, New York City, New York, 2016
The extended elbows of the model appearing on this ad echo the flow of the ribbons on the theatrical mask that rises in the background. I juxtapose both elements, and place them within a horizontal frame. Five horizontal bars rhythmically repeat each other as they flow through this image. They embrace both the grinning mask and smiling model and intensify the effect of the echoing horizontal elbows and ribbons. A closer look also reveals a wavy strand of lights behind the mask, providing still another echo. The background of the ad was red—a color that originally dominated the scene, and diminished the relationship of the model and mask. By converting this image to black and white, I eliminate such distraction, and shift the emphasis to the echoes and rhythms within the image.
Choices, Eighth Avenue, New York City, New York, 2016
An array of tasty food greets the patrons of the food trucks that line many of Manhattan’s avenues.
I photographed this woman as she patiently waits for her order in heart of New York's theatre district. She seems relatively relaxed amidst an incredible range of choices. She is likely a regular customer of street cuisine. Others may be overwhelmed by the many choices pictured on nearly every surface of this truck. This image asks its viewers what they might choose if confronted with so many appealing options.
Trophy Room, The Explorers Club, New York City, New York, 2016
This club, a professional society promoting scientific exploration and field study, was founded in 1905. It is now headquartered in a six-story mansion on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. It houses trophies and artifacts collected during more than a century of explorations by its members, some of whom were first to the North Pole, South Pole, the summit of Mt. Everest and even first to the moon. Its trophy room stands at the top of building. A painting of an Arctic explorer dominates the scene, flanked by a pair of South African Sable antelopes. Their curving horns mirror the reversed curves of the huge elephant tusks below them, just as the stuffed cheetah in the middle of the image repeats the legs of the explorer in the painting..
Walrus, The Explorers Club, New York City, New York, 2016
This club owns priceless artifacts, collected across the face of the earth over the last 115 years. This mounted exhibit was among the most poignant. This mounted head of a long departed young walrus, stares sadly at us, just below an “exit” sign. A massive elephant tusk enters the frame at the upper left, it’s curve echoing the circular plaque of this polar trophy. The huge tusk contrasts in size to the miniature tusks of this immature walrus. I converted this photograph to black and white to make it read more symbolic than descriptive. This baby walrus has made its own exit a long time ago, and the sign above its head provides a verbal reminder of its demise. The expression on its face conveys a mixture of innocence and surprise (the small tusks and wide eyes) To a greater degree, this image reminds us that the polar explorations of the early 20th century launched an environmental challenge that remains as difficult to resolve today as it did back then.
On Line, Theatre District, New York City, New York, 2016
New Yorkers never stand “in” lines. They stand “on” them. In this image, that “line” had dissolved into a small mob of locals and tourists awaiting a chance at free tickets for a popular television show. I stood across the street and used a long lens to make this image. When I photograph a crowd, I look for a single gesture or expression that will draw the eye to a focal point and tell a story. In this case, the story rests in the expressive hands of the woman at right. She is the only person in this shot who wears a skirt. She is standing in the foreground, and offers both an animated facial expression and an explanatory hand gesture to express her feelings. Although the woman in the pink sweater on the left provides the most vivid color in the image, it is the person to her right that carries the most meaning. She provides the idea for the photograph, while everything else offers context.
Earlybirds, Theatre District, New York City, New York, 2016
The hit musical “Hamilton, ” well into its long Broadway run, was the still the hottest ticket in town during my 2016 visit to New York City. The show was playing just across the street from my hotel, offering me a chance to photograph its entrance at various times of day. Early one morning, I found two young women already claiming the first spots on the theatre’s front steps. They camped squarely in front of the building’s locked doors, well before the throngs of anxious potential ticket buyers would join them. Their relaxed body language contrasts to the larger than life size animated silhouettes of the 18th century Hamiltonian characters emblazoned upon the theatre's locked doors. A huge banner proclaiming the show as the “Musical of the Decade” hangs over the scene while the two women chat and the play’s symbolic characters dance behind them. The colors are symbolic as well. This hit rap musical about the turbulent life of America’s first Treasury Secretary is packaged in gold and black, the colors of power, wealth, and eventually grief.
Phantom, Theatre District, New York City, New York, 2016
This huge poster for the musical “Phantom of the Opera, displayed behind a textured glass window, offered me a chance to create this blend of make-believe and reality. The poster featured a black background filled with lighted candelabras surrounding the main characters of the play. The street just behind me was reflected on the glass in front of the poster. I made many photographs of this reflected scene, expressing a sense of the city itself within the poster. I chose this shot, because the reflection of the yellow taxi moving through a textured sea of glowing candles incongruously compares contemporary urban life to vintage theatrical fantasy.
City of Dreams, New York, New York, 2016
The lower half of the office building at right was being renovated. Huge temporary display panels, displaying advertisements, hide the work. The largest panel promotes an adventure movie, featuring a young hero brandishing what appears to be a magic wand. I contrast this massive ad to the array of old and new skyscrapers looming around it. The building at left, now a posh hotel, was built in the 19th century. Its peaked roof and tiny windows offer us a dreamlike vision of a long vanished world, lost within a sea of modern glass. The incongruously ad is pure fantasy, while the background offers a varied look at a city in constant change. By converting this image to black and white, the advertisement blends with the buildings and becomes part of that change. It is as if the young man with the wand is creating this dream-like scene for us.
Selfie, Times Square, New York City, New York, 2016
Selfies have become so popular that rows of plastic recliners now await tourists visiting Times Square. They enable visitors to make pictures of themselves, seen in the context of Times Square, from a dramatically low position. This fellow seems as if he has entered a trance-like state, mesmerized by the image of himself displayed on the screen of his cell phone. A row of diagonal recliners fills much of the frame. His reclining form offers a powerful blue diagonal. Meanwhile, his thrusting arms, holding an upright camera, offer a contrasting diagonal counterpoint.
Under the masks, Times Square, New York City, New York, 2016
A few moments before I made this image, these were costumed cartoon characters that happily glided and danced among the tourists thronging Times Square, creating a festive mood, and ultimately requesting tips for such services. Eventually all good things must come to an end. The party has ended, and now reality rules. In this mage, we can see that those happy masks have been replaced by life as it is -- these people are paid to work , and work is not always fun. I converted the color image to black and white in order to remove as much festivity as possible, and allow us to focus on what lies beneath those masks.
Spectacle, New York City, New York, 2016
In the fall of 2016, this seven-story high advertisement, superimposed upon the façade of an apartment building, created a surreal incongruous spectacle high over Manhattan’s Eighth Avenue. I built this image by comparing the building’s tiny windows to the massive face of a model wearing sunglasses with tiny circles on them. At the time, I did not have a context for this advertisement. I was simply making a picture of another picture, albeit an incongruous, enormous, mystifying image, bathed in vivid red paint, and splashed with dappled sunlight. I eventually learned that the sunglasses featured in this ad represent a fashion-inspired technology product known as “Spectacles.” It is marketed to young people, encouraging them to make ten-second videos with a tiny camera embedded in the frame, and then upload these videos to social media media app “Snapchat.” The circle on the left corner of the sunglasses is the lens of this video camera, while the circle at right lights up and rotates to warn others that they are being recorded. The model’s massive fingers are presumably triggering a video. (A sampling of video clips made with these “Spectacles” can be seen on YouTube. They fall far short of the product’s ambitious title.)