You would think there is only one restaurant in NYC with a name like this one
This photo was taken on 9th Ave, between 22nd and 23rd Street.
In fact, you probably wouldn't even think it was a restaurant. A shop? Yeah, maybe -- after all, all of us shop for meatballs every once in a while, right?
But a restaurant? Well, okay, NYC is probably big enough to support one such restaurant ... and I thought I was photographing something pretty unique when I took this picture. But then, exactly a month after I took this photo, I happened to be trudging along one of the avenues on the Upper East Side, still looking for photos that truly say "this is New York" ... and, to my amazement, I saw another Meatball Shop!
Egad! How could this be? Google to the rescue! As soon as I got home, I googled the phrase (yeah, I know that I have a very small life -- but admit it: you would have done the same thing!).
And I found that there is not just one, and not just two, Meatball Shops in NYC. There are five such establishments: one in the West Village, one in Chelsea, one in the Upper East Side, one in the Lower East Side, and one in Williamsburgh, Brooklyn. (Sorry, Queens, Bronx, and Staten Island: you aren't worthy of such an honor).
But where, I hear you asking, where exactly are they located? I thought you would never ask ... but here is the URL that will provide the details:
A couple of additional details for you to ponder: note that patrons of this fine establishment are apparently known as "ballers." And note that the shop was given an "A" rating by the NYC restaurant inspectors; so you can be reasonably confident that they serve nothing but the very best meatballs.
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
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 ...