In New York, even the babies want their own cell phones

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    This was taken at the northeast corner of 8th Avenue and 58th Street.

    Note: I chose this as my "photo of the day" for Dec 3, 2013.


    This set of photos is based on a very simple concept: walk every block of Manhattan with a camera, and see what happens. To avoid missing anything, walk both sides of the street.

    That's all there is to it …

    Of course, if you wanted to be more ambitious, you could also walk the streets of Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island, and the Bronx. But that's more than I'm willing to commit to at this point, and I'll leave the remaining boroughs of New York City to other, more adventurous photographers.

    Oh, actually, there's one more small detail: leave the photos alone for a month -- unedited, untouched, and unviewed. By the time I actually focus on the first of these "every-block" photos, I will have taken more than 8,000 images on the nearby streets of the Upper West Side -- plus another several thousand in Rome, Coney Island, and the various spots in NYC where I traditionally take photos. So I don't expect to be emotionally attached to any of the "every-block" photos, and hope that I'll be able to make an objective selection of the ones worth looking at.

    As for the criteria that I've used to select the small subset of every-block photos that get uploaded to Flickr: there are three. First, I'll upload any photo that I think is "great," and where I hope the reaction of my Flickr-friends will be, "I have no idea when or where that photo was taken, but it's really a terrific picture!"

    A second criterion has to do with place, and the third involves time. I'm hoping that I'll take some photos that clearly say, "This is New York!" to anyone who looks at it. Obviously, certain landscape icons like the Empire State Building or the Statue of Liberty would satisfy that criterion; but I'm hoping that I'll find other, more unexpected examples. I hope that I'll be able to take some shots that will make a "local" viewer say, "Well, even if that's not recognizable to someone from another part of the country, or another part of the world, I know that that's New York!" And there might be some photos where a "non-local" viewer might say, "I had no idea that there was anyplace in New York City that was so interesting/beautiful/ugly/spectacular."

    As for the sense of time: I remember wandering around my neighborhood in 2005, photographing various shops, stores, restaurants, and business establishments -- and then casually looking at the photos about five years later, and being stunned by how much had changed. Little by little, store by store, day by day, things change … and when you've been around as long as I have, it's even more amazing to go back and look at the photos you took thirty or forty years ago, and ask yourself, "Was it really like that back then? Seriously, did people really wear bell-bottom jeans?"

    So, with the expectation that I'll be looking at these every-block photos five or ten years from now (and maybe you will be, too), I'm going to be doing my best to capture scenes that convey the sense that they were taken in the year 2013 … or at least sometime in the decade of the 2010's (I have no idea what we're calling this decade yet). Or maybe they'll just say to us, "This is what it was like a dozen years after 9-11".

    Movie posters are a trivial example of such a time-specific image; I've already taken a bunch, and I don't know if I'll ultimately decide that they're worth uploading. Women's fashion/styles are another obvious example of a time-specific phenomenon; and even though I'm definitely not a fashion expert, I suspected that I'll be able to look at some images ten years from now and mutter to myself, "Did we really wear shirts like that? Did women really wear those weird skirts that are short in the front, and long in the back? Did everyone in New York have a tattoo?"

    Another example: I'm fascinated by the interactions that people have with their cellphones out on the street. It seems that everyone has one, which certainly wasn't true a decade ago; and it seems that everyone walks down the street with their eyes and their entire conscious attention riveted on this little box-like gadget, utterly oblivious about anything else that might be going on (among other things, that makes it very easy for me to photograph them without their even noticing, particularly if they've also got earphones so they can listen to music or carry on a phone conversation). But I can't help wondering whether this kind of social behavior will seem bizarre a decade from now … especially if our cellphones have become so miniaturized that they're incorporated into the glasses we wear, or implanted directly into our eyeballs.

    Oh, one last thing: I've created a customized Google Map to show the precise details of each day's photo-walk. I'll be updating it each day, and the most recent part of my every-block journey will be marked in red, to differentiate it from all of the older segments of the journey, which will be shown in blue. You can see the map, and peek at it each day to see where I've been, by clicking on this link

    URL link to Ed's every-block progress through Manhattan

    If you have any suggestions about places that I should definitely visit to get some good photos, or if you'd like me to photograph you in your little corner of New York City, please let me know. You can send me a Flickr-mail message, or you can email me directly at ed-at-yourdon-dot-com

    Stay tuned as the photo-walk continues, block by block ...

    Queen.George, metafus, and 4 other people added this photo to their favorites.

    1. Visual Raconteur 63 months ago | reply

      The title of this image could be, "Alone Together". Yes, there is a book out with that same title. Actually, this should have been the cover image for that book.

    2. Ed Yourdon 63 months ago | reply

      Actually, there are (at least) two books with this title. I had forgotten that one of them is a Sherry Turkle book. I've been reading her books since the mid-80s(!), and had the great pleasure of listening to one of her presentations at a Pop!Tech conference in Camden, Maine a couple years ago. I think you're right: this photo would have served wells the cover image for her book.

    3. Visual Raconteur 63 months ago | reply

      Ed Yourdon I have not read Sherry Turkle's book, "Alone Together" however, aside from having heard her being interviewed about it (I think it was on either NPR or C-Span 2 Book TV), I see scenes like this play out daily (and I live in central Jersey and am in NYC relatively often)---the most densely populated part of the U.S., so, I believe it's a very representative sampling, and I find it extremely disheartening. People who know me, know that I simply will not participate in these half-hearted interactions. If I am having a meal with someone and they feel the need to check their phone more than once, I let them know that I am leaving, and if it means that someday it's just me, myself, and I, then so be it.

      Even as a child, I was always a, "Give me 100%" or "Give me nothing" kind of person. I do not like anything done halfway or in a halfhearted manner.

      Rhetorical question: "What kind of relationships are people forming today, when they find it so difficult to give another human being their undivided attention?"

      Did not mean to type a manifesto, but your image is just that good that it got my juices flowing.

      There are a myriad of writings (books, articles, blogs, etc.) on the impact of technology on interpersonal relationships, I would love to see your image used for one of them. You nailed it.

    4. Ed Yourdon 63 months ago | reply

      Yeah, there is (are?) a myriad of writings about the impact of technology on interpersonal relationships. It's a sufficiently complex and controversial topic that I don't think one can do it justice in a paragraph or two; Sherry Turkle has been following this phenomenon since the mid-80s (obviously long before smartphones), and has written several books -- including, for example, one that I remember titled "Life on the Screen."

      I think two things are important to remember when commenting about all of this: first of all, technology is changing at a dizzying pace, making possible activities and behaviors (and pseudo-relationships) that would simply not have been possible 5-10 years ago (remember: the first iPhone appeared in 2007, and the iPhone 5s is 240 times more powerful).

      And second -- partly associated with the technological change -- all of this has become a generational issue. What my generation thinks is appropriate in this area is almost certainly not what today's generation of teenagers thinks is appropriate. Neither generation is necessarily right or wrong ... but it's getting more and more difficult for the generations to even communicate in a meaningful fashion.

      In any case, thanks for the kind words about the photograph. With any luck, it will be picked up at some point in the future, but probably as an illustration for someone's blog posting...

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