Note: this photo was published in a Oct 1, 2011 issue of Everyblock NYC zipcodes blog titled "10023."
Note: I chose this photo, among the ten that I uploaded to Flickr on the morning of Oct 1, 2011, as my "photo of the day." It won't win any prizes or awards, but it serves as a good reminder to me that the focus, perspective, and "angle" of a photo can make a significant difference. Normally I would take a photo like this while standing upright, with the camera at my eye, and facing directly toward the woman. But this was taken with my Sony SLT-A55V camera, which has a "swivel" LCD that made it easy for me to bend over a little, lower the camera to roughly the height of my knees, and take a slightly upward-pointing picture. It puts more attention on the pigeons -- not that they really need it, but the point is that it provides a different perspective and focus than what I would normally be doing...
This is a continuation of Flickr sets that I created in 2010 (shown here), 2009 (shown here), and 2008 (shown here) -- which, collectively, illustrate a variety of scenes and people in the small "pocket park" known as Verdi Square, located at 72nd Street and Broadway in New York City's Upper West Side, right by the 72nd St. IRT subway station.
I typically visit a local gym once or twice a week, and I get there by taking the downtown IRT express from my home (at 96th Street) down to the 72nd Street stop. Whenever possible, I try to schedule an extra 30-60 minutes to sit quietly on one of the park benches, and just watch the flow of people coming in and out of the park -- sometimes just passing through, to get from 72nd Street up to 73rd Street, but mostly entering or exiting the subway station.
You see all kinds of people here: students, bums, tourists, office workers, homeless people, retired people, babysitters, children, soldiers, sanitation workers, lovers, friends, dogs, cats, pigeons, and a few things that simply defy description. Sometimes you see the same people over and over again; sometimes they follow a regular pattern at a particular time of the day.
If I focus on the people entering the park at 73rd Street, and walking southwards toward the subway entrance, I typically have five or ten seconds to (a) decide if they're sufficiently interesting to bother photographing,(b) wait for them to get in a position where I can get a clear shot of them, and (c) focus my camera on them and take several shots, in the hope that at least one or two of them will be well-focused and really interesting.
While you might get the impression that I photograph every single person who moves through this park, it's actually just the opposite: the vast majority of people that I see here are just not all that interesting. (It's not that they're ugly, it's just that there's nothing interesting, memorable, or distinctive about them.) Even so, I might well take, say, 200 shots in the space of an hour. But some of them are repetitive or redundant, and others are blurred or out-of-focus, or technically defective in some other way. Of the ones that survive this kind of scrutiny, many turn out to be well-focused, nicely-composed, but ... well ... just "okay". I'll keep them on my computer, just in case, but I don't bother uploading them.
Only about 5% of the photos I've taken get uploaded to Flickr -- e.g., about 10 photos from a one-hour session in which a thousand, or more, people have walked past me. So it is indeed only a tiny, tiny subset of the "real" street scene in New York City. On the other hand, it is reassuring to see that there are at least a few "interesting" people in a city that often has a reputation of being mean, cold, and heartless...