Summertime lunch at Bryant Park, Aug 2009 - 37

This was taken near the southwest corner of the park...


Note: this photo was published in an undated (Oct 2009) blog titled "Amish says ... sit in park." It was also published in a Jun 23, 2010 blog titled "Workers of the World Unite! Take Back Your Lunch!" It was also published in a Sep 16, 2010 blog titled "Cities for People: A Q&A With Architect Jan Gehl," at www-dot-fastcompany-dot-com-slash-1689519/cities-for-people-a-qa-with-architect-jan-gehl . And it was published in a Sep 24, 2010 blog titled "Friday 5: Urban Miscellany from Sept 18th-24th.


Moving into 2011, the photo was published (for reasons I simply don't understand at all) in a blog titled "Find a Dentist in Birmingham." And it was published in an undated (early Oct 2011) blog titled " Az öregedés jelei ."


Moving into 2012, the photo was published in a Feb 13, 2012 Atlantic blog titled "Why So Many Romantic Comedies Are Set in Cities." And it was published in a May 1, 2012 blog titled "ブログでは書かないメルマガ相談所(工事中)."


Moving into 2013, the photo was published in a Mar 21, 2013 blog titled For "Thriving Public Spaces, Just Add Seating."




I had a lunchtime dentist appointment in midtown Manhattan the other day, and when it was over, I decided to walk a couple blocks over to Bryant Park, behind the New York Public Library. It was a sunny day, and I thought I might see some gorgeous babes sunbathing on the park lawn in their bikinis (even being an amateur photographer is a tough job, but someone's gotta do it). If not, I thought perhaps I'd find some photogenic tourists or oddball New Yorkers that I could photograph.


As it turns out, almost all of the central lawn was being covered over with some kind of wooden platform -- presumably for an upcoming concert performance of some kind -- so nobody was sunbathing out on the grass. But since that area was unavailable, and since it was still the lunchtime period, the periphery around the central lawn was chock-a-block with people. There's now a cafe immediately behind (i.e., to the west) of the library itself, and it was doing a land-office business. And all along the north and south sides of the park, as well as the broader western side, there were tables and chairs and benches where people could enjoy their lunch with whatever food or entertainment they had brought along.


I was already aware of the pentanque court on the western side of the park, and knew that I'd find one or two good pictures there. But I didn't realize that the Parks Department had set up two ping-pong tables, as well as several tables for chess-players. In addition, there were a few card games underway, and there was also a section set aside for people who wanted to borrow local newspapers to read.


As for the people: I had to remind myself that because Bryant Park is smack in the middle of mid-town Manhattan (a block away from Times Square, filling the square block between 41st/42nd street, and 5th/6th Avenue), most of the people enjoying their lunch were office workers. So the men typically wore slacks and dress shirts, and a surprising number of them were also wearing suits and ties. The women wore dresses and skirts, and generally looked quite fashionable and presentable. Of course, there were also tourists and students and miscellaneous others; but overall, it was a much more "upscale" bunch of people than I'm accustomed to seeing in my own residential area on the Upper West Side.


I was surprised by how many people were sitting alone -- eating alone, reading alone, listening to music alone, dozing alone, or just staring into space alone. You'll see some of them in this album, though I didn't want to over-emphasize their presence; equally important, many of the loners just weren't all that interesting from a photogenic perspective. So you'll also see lots of couples, some children, a couple of families, and occasionally larger groups of people who were eating and chatting and enjoying the warm summer day.


Three activities dominated the scene, all of which were fairly predictable, under the circumstances: eating, reading, and talking on cellphones. You would expect people to be eating at lunch-time, of course; and you wouldn't be surprised at the notion of people reading a book as they sat behind the New York Public Library on a warm, sunny day. But the pervasiveness of the cellphones was quite astonishing ... oh, yeah, there were a few laptops, too, but fewer than I might have imagined.


I've photographed Bryant Park several times over the past 40 years, going back to some photos of 1969 Vietnam War protest marches that you can see in this album. I was here in the summer of 2008 to take these photos; I came back in January 2009 to take these photos of the winter scene; and I returned again for these pictures in March 2009 and these these pictures in the late spring of 2009; all of these have been collected into a Flickr "collection" of albums that you can find here. But if you want to see what New York City's midtown office workers are doing at lunch, take a look at what's in this album.

kamihacker, Derek and 14 more people faved this
  • Derek 6y

    Stumbled upon your page today for the first time. Love the images, but love the descriptions just as much. Rather serendipitous that you were out shooting and a lovely, smiling woman carrying a camera just happens into the edge of the frame. Great stuff.
  • Ed Yourdon 6y

    Thanks -- glad you're enjoying the images, and also the descriptions. Wish I had time to write more detailed comments about each individual image; I manage to do so with some of my Flickr sets, but not all of them...

    This photo was indeed pure serendipity, and from a technical perspective it was annoying that part of the woman's arm was cut off at the edge of the frame. On the other hand, the overall scene was such a nice one that I decided to keep it.

    Such choices are often difficult for me, because I end up with so many images that I like personally. In this case, I shot 642 images in the space of an hour, as I wandered around the square-block area of Bryant Park. But even after rejecting the out-of-focus losers, and the relatively boring mediocre images, I was still left with way, way too many to expect anyone els to look at. So this set (when it's finished tomorrow) will just be the 60 "best of the best" from that very pleasant lunch-time stroll...
  • ƒliçkrwåy 6y

    I have just come back from NYC for my first ever visit and just loved Bryant Park! It has a special feel to it that is unequalled to any city I have been to, including my home city of London.
    I just wished I lived a little closer:)
    This is a very pleasant image...
  • Ed Yourdon 6y

    Thanks, glad you enjoyed it!
  • So Hot Right Now 6y

    The photos are great and story is even better, it's wonderful that someone is documenting this dynamic and vibrant urban space, which I think has a lot to teach us about how to create successful social spaces for people all around the world.

    We're currently having a discussion about successful social spaces, and how they contribute to building inspiring, inclusive and creative cities, and I would love permission to post one or two of your photos in our discussion of Bryant Park here:
  • Ed Yourdon 6y


    Thanks for your kind words; I'm delighted that you've enjoyed the photos and the commentary I wrote about Bryant Park.

    Of course, you are more than welcome to post any of the photos that might be useful for the discussion you and your colleagues are having about successful social spaces.

    In that context, please be sure to see the comment that someone else made about one of the photos in this set -- and the importance of having moveable chairs, to make people feel more relaxed and comfortable about their ability to "customize" the space to fit their needs. It was something I had never heard about, but it made perfectly good sense. You can see it here:

    Summertime lunch at Bryant Park, Aug 2009 - 44 by Ed Yourdon

    Also, be sure to see the other Flickr sets that I've created about Bryant Park, which go back 40 years to the Vietnam protest rallies that were held there in October 1969. I've gathered all of them together into a Flickr "collection," which you can see here:

  • Ed Yourdon 6y


    BTW, I just noticed on your profile page that you're from Sydney. Just as you have enjoyed my photos of Bryant Park in NYC, I must tell you that Sydney is one of my favorite cities in the world. I've visited Sydney roughly a dozen times since 1972; you can see a collection of my Flickr sets from there in this collection:

  • So Hot Right Now 5y

    Thank you for these links Ed, your Vietnam-era Bryant Park images are incredible, beautiful faces full of emotion, I'm taking some time to look through them now. And wow, Sydney in the 70s! Great photos - it really is a stunning city - and from your photos I can see it was even greener back then!

    That point about movable chairs is a good one, and one that I hadn't really considered until I read this article, which inspired the piece I'd like to use your images for:

    It's fascinating to note that it's these small, sub-conscious messages that a city sends about trust in it's citizens and the value of a shared public space actually have a deep impact in the way we feel about our cities and how we interact with our fellow city-dwellers.

  • Ed Yourdon 5y


    Thanks for the note -- glad you enjoyed the photos. If you get a chance, you might also enjoy seeing this set of photos from a 1973 visit to Ayer's Rock:

    We brought our two sons back to see the the place 20 years later, and were stunned by how much it had changed -- not the rock, of course, but the crowds of tourists. We've had the same experience when returning to visit Rome, Stonehenge, Hong Kong, hill towns in Italy, and various other places that made a huge impact on us when we first saw them as young adults...

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Taken on August 25, 2009
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