Saturday was German-American Day in New York City, and the heart of the entire event was the parade down Fifth Ave. Germans, German-Americans and anyone else with a hankering for beer and wiener schnitzel stood along the parade route watching the festivities and waiting for Oktoberfest in Central Park to kick off afterwards.
Moose & Wilbur were there, doing sound for the event. I had my own gig that morning, and after packing up, I headed up to meet them. I told them I’d come by to help pack up, but I also realized the perfect advantage I’d have standing next to the grandstand. I grabbed coffee for us all, and made my way into the restricted area. As the parade approached us, I made my way right next to the announcing platform. I stood next to the barricade, ready to shoot. As I raised my camera, I felt a hand on my shoulder, and some one say “Excuse me.” I turned and there was a parade official standing there, looking a bit puzzled. I really wasn’t looking forward to getting grilled about who I was or why I was inside the VIP area, but I knew the fact I was with the sound company would get me out of trouble. They wouldn’t like I wasn’t taking photos, but I could at least keep my spot. The German man looked at me and shook his head. Finally he spoke.
“Did you not get your press pass?” He asked. “We really screwed this up this year, they all went out Friday and no one got them.” He reached into his pocket and in one swift motion, hung a “2009 German-American Steuben Parade” press pass around my neck. Nearly stammering, I stuttered out, “Thanks, no, I didn’t get it.” I nodded, and then took the big step. The step which separates the boys from the men, the step which separates the cool kids from the dorks.
I stepped off the curb, and into Fifth Ave.
My feet were all ready on the double yellow line when I looked back. The German who had given me the pass had moved on, and I could see Moose at the soundboard. He saw me, and his face lit up. He laughed and grabbed Wilbur, pointing at me. I held up my pass to show him & Moose smiled big, and then waved me on, his way of saying “You’re in the river now kid, you better start swimming.”
So, I swam. Before me, I could see the first marching band and the Grand Marshall approaching. I lifted my camera, look through the lens and caught them dead on. For the rest of the day, group after group, band after band, float after float passed me, or I passed them. I walked all along the street shooting them. They stopped and posed for me, I thanked them, and they continued on. I was able to move around the sun, beating the light that sometime ruins shots, and I found the best places on the street to shoot from. I used position, and placement to my advantage because I was able to go where I wanted… I had a press pass dammit.
I didn’t get back to the truck until after the last float had passed, and I had wandered through the crowd taking some last candids. I threw my camera in the bag and started packing up the gear. Moose and Wilbur joked about how the big press guy took time out of his schedule to help out. As we were rolling down the tailgate Moose asked how the shots came out. I told him I didn’t know.
“I do.” He said. “Incredible as usual.”
That’s what Fred says at the end of every conversation. She says it in her one of a kind accent with an inflection that shows you that it’s not a forced comment, rather her accepted mission statement. If you’ve ever met Fred, you know this already though.
It’s pretty hard to have fun and be free. The pressures of daily life, your responsibilities, and the desire for a paycheck seem to hold you back most times. Then of course there’s the opinion of others which we tend to let steer our decisions. That, at times, is the biggest anchor around our neck.
But, as Poppy reminded me the other day, “It’s ok to compromise on issues. It’s not ok to compromise on Who You Are” In fact, be proud of who you are.
For the past two years, I’ve attended New York City’s annual Gay, Lesbian and Transgender Pride Parade. I don’t think a stronger display of pride and accomplishment could be found anywhere than along 5th Avenue on this Sunday in June. As I watched and photographed the participants, the sheer joy shown through their faces. They were so happy, so free. This past year, I left the parade route and walked through the city to get to the street festival being held in SoHo. It was hot out, in fact hot as hell, and as typically happens on a day like this in NYC, a wild thunderstorm broke out, raining like it was the apocalypse for thirty minutes, then returning to clear skies as quickly as it came. As I took shelter from the rain under an awning, I thought of the wild and beautiful costumes back at the parade route and I realized many of them would be wrecked in the storm. I felt sad because of the time and the work that went into them, but I realized that nothing could damper the feelings of those who wore them. Even with ruined make up or soaked feathers, the joy and pride that I saw before the rain would still be there.
I’ve been packing my apartment this week, getting ready to move, and finding things that I had forgotten I had. I came across a pile of DVDs, all unlabeled, and checked the contents before tossing them. Most was garbage, but one was a back up of photos that I had done before I lost a hard drive. Among them were the shots I took at the 2007 Pride Parade. Happy to have them again, I backed them up, so I wouldn’t loose them a second time. I went back to packing, and eventually looked up at my wall, covered with 8x10s of some of my work. I considered taking them down, wrapping them up, and getting them ready to move as well, but I’m here for a few more days, and that would leave me here staring at bare walls. More than that though, they’re not just photos I took, they’re photos I’m most proud of.
I think I’ll take them down last.
Go off now… go do something… and if you’re not sure what do, and how to do it, call Fred. She’ll tell you.
Here are some of the shots I took at the 2007 & 2008 NYC Gay, Lesbian & Transgender Parades.
Slide show of the images of the 2008 Parade can be found Here
Slide show of the images of the 2008 Parade can be found Here
I used to tell this neat little lie when I was a kid.
See, my birthday is November 12th. Veteran’s Day is the day before. Schools are closed, as are banks, government offices, etc. When I first joined a union, it was floating holiday, but I think we gave it up for the day after Thanksgiving or some other day that was more convenient to be off. I grew up with a dad that always told us trivial historical facts, dates, names, places, etc, stuff that never really got you anywhere except when you knew that November 11th was Veteran’s day before the rest of the kids in your class did. I of course told my whole class one year that the school was closed so my parents could get ready for my birthday.
I don’t know if it worked ever, but it made me feel cool.
Today’s Veteran’s day, and yes, I know what tomorrow is, I rather not be reminded. I have too many bad birthdays to enjoy them any more.
Today I had off, not because of a union contract, rather because I am one of the millions of newly unemployed Americans. So after I went on another fruitless interview this morning, I decided to head to the New York Veteran’s Day Parade. Today was a special Veteran’s Day in New York. The USS Intrepid, a World War II aircraft carrier that served as a museum was rededicated by the President Of The United States. Afterward, the parade would stroll down Fifth Ave. I was too late for the ceremony, and knew I couldn’t get close enough anyway, so I set off for the parade.
I got there shortly after the start of it, and found a nice spot across from the main viewing stand. The crowds were deep, and it was mostly a crowd that stopped by on their lunch break. They were enthusiastic, and cheered as the parade came by. I moved around and shot as I had with countless parades. I tried my best to capture the jubilation and excitement on faces, in movements. I found myself at an intersection, where a member of the NYPD control pedestrian traffic. I looked around, then slipped behind him into the parade route, on the other side of the barricades. I didn’t turn my back to see if he noticed, but I did hold up my camera, as if to show I had it, and to try to show I belonged there.
Once inside the parade itself, I went “butt-ass-wild” taking shot after shot of participants as well as viewers. I was lost in the moment, caught up in the excitement of it all.
Then I saw Smitty.
I don’t even know if that was his real name, but I noticed it was sown on his jacket. He stood against the railing, American flag tucked unto his buttons. His eyes were red, and he chocked back the tears as he watched everyone stream by. I turned to see what he was looking at, and all I could see was the parade. I looked back at Smitty and I realized maybe what he was seeing, was not only the parade, but what wasn’t at the parade. Those who weren’t there today. Maybe those who didn’t have time to come and cheer. Maybe those who were off, and would rather be loafing on the couch then battle the fall wind and head into Manhattan. Maybe he was seeing the men and women who never made it home to be in a parade like this. I’ll never know. I raised my camera and took Smitty’s picture. I reached out and shook his hand. “Thank you.” I said. He nodded and I moved on, capturing what was there, and never forgetting what wasn’t.
I took a lot of shots… too many to put them all here. Enjoy this slideshow of all my 2008 NYC Veteran’s Day Parade images