This isn’t the first time I’ve attended the New York City Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Pride Parade by any means. I make it a point to attend annually, not just to hone my photography skills, but to show my support and help celebrate this slice of NYC.
But this year, something was different.
Every year, the parade is a complex mix of pageantry and color, pride and happiness, with a dose of somber remembrance and social consciousnesses thrown. This year had all those things, but there was something else in the air. A wonderful look of celebration burned brightly in the eyes of every participant, as well as spectator. Just the day before the parade, the NY State Senate passed, and Governor Cuomo signed the Same Sex marriage act, joining only 5 other states that allow marriage to be based on love and not gender. It was another step forward along the path of granting all Americans equal civil rights.
I tried to capture some of this joyous attitude, as well as the pageantry and colors and all else that goes into the pride parade. My brother took the year off, enjoying to watch and not march, but a close childhood friend did pass us by, and it was great to see him so happy and celebrating the day.
Kim and I watched for a while – not only was there a lot to see, but I had new gear to play with. We finally headed home as the parade passed our spot, on it’s way towards Greenwich Village. When the crowds reach the Stonewall Inn, where the gay rights movement began over 40 years ago, the parade ends.
But maybe this is the year that won’t happen. Maybe this year even though the parade will end physically, it’s spirit will carry on, state to state, until we, as a nation, allow two people – regardless of gender – to dedicate their lives to each other. Maybe this is the year the rights we are supposed to be granted under the constitution will apply to every citizen.
“Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.” – Dr Suess
Yesterday was Christmas all over again.
Except I was my own personal Santa and no one came down my chimney. I did, however, walk away with some pretty sweet ass presents.
To help my growing business, I made a serious gear investment, and walked away with the new Nikon D7000, a new Nikon SB900 flash and an amazing Sigma 70-200 f2.8 lens.
What do all these numbers and jargon mean to non-photographers? Umm.. I got some really awesome shit!
Yesterday there was a lot of personal stuff going on with the kiddies, so even though I physically picked up my new gear yesterday, I wasn’t able to play – I mean learn how to use it. And learn is an accurate description because the D7000 has more controls than the space shuttle, and I feel I need a PHD to master them all. The lens… that’s gonna take a heck of a lot to get used to…
So this morning, I woke bright eyed and busy tailed, my mind racing of all the places I could go and start my training. I sat there, sipping my coffee, creating a mental itinerary of all the places and things I could see, and didn’t really even hear what Kim said to me.
“What?” I asked, “You want to go to a flea market?” I said with doubt and disbelief until I remembered that yes, we were planing on heading to see our good friend Noel at her new shop “Catfight Boutique”. So, I took the new toys along and as the girls chatted, I snapped away. Nothing special, but a learning process, part of the ultimate goal of me becoming better and better.
Oh … and if you’re ever in Queens, definitely stop by Catfight Boutique, Noel’s actually got some really cool stuff.
I love New York City.
To those who don’t live here, it just can’t be described. It’s a giant web of lights, colors, sounds, smells (yes some nasty ones, especially in the summer on the 7 train), people, places and things. It’s a living, breathing, growing entity which can never be duplicated or matched. I’ve been other places, and most are “lets go to this district and see something” but all of the big apple is something to see. You can find as many interesting things on the south shore of Staten Island than in the middle of 42nd street. All you need to do is look.
I always find it a shame how many New Yorkers don’t look. They hustle along to and fro and never stop to admire the city around them. The faces they past, the colors in the sky, the smells in the air. (I’ve found some incredible pizza joints following my nose.)
But it’s my responsibility to be the one who does look, isn’t it? It’s my eye – and my lens – that’s supposed to be catching those sights, and even though I can’t bring the scent of the freshly cooked slice to you, but I can make it look so damn good you’re dying for a bite.
I’m not the only one, thankfully, and I’m in no way one of the best. Take James Maher for example. The miles he strolls around this city, camera in hand, would probably put him to the moon and back. He captures street life at its best, and most honest. He blooged the other day about setting a tripod on a street corner and what walked by and now I find it a thought that won’t get out of my head. Wouldn’t that be something? Just set up and see who stops. In this city, the cross section of life you’d capture would be amazing. Might be something I have to try. Stop by his blog, if you’re from the city you’ll see things that feel like home, and if you’re not… well, this is New York City… enjoy.
Here are some of my favorite NYC shots. I don’t many of the faces and people that make up the city, I guess I’ve been concentrating on other sights for now. Maybe I should grab that tripod. Anyway … enjoy.
Just another Sunday in New York City. Unseasonably hot, yet Kim and I ventured into Manhattan for a stroll, and of course a stop at our favorite bar on planet earth.
We wandered through a street fair in SoHo, taking in the sights, sounds and all that is Manhattan.
I got to play with my new toy, the MB-D80 Battery Grip which is why I realized all my shots are portrait. I spent the afternoon playing with the new shutter button.
Nothing special, but that’s what makes Sundays like this so special. Being in the place you love with the person you love doing what you love…. and a cold a beer.
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.”
With the strong summer sun sneaking away into autumn, I grabbed Time Out magazine and flippd through it looking for something to do. As if the editors were aware of the situation, I found an article “Things To Do Before Summer Ends”. There on the list was a place I had heard about, but never been to, The Brooklyn Botanical Gardens. I grabbed Jenn McGowan, who grabbed her daughter & friend and off we went deep into the bowels of Brooklyn.
Ok, “deep in the bowels” isn’t that accurate, but it was in Brooklyn, nestled on the side of Prospect Park. It was the first trip there for all of us, and I was amazed how I had never been to this beautiful spot in my city. Jenn and I walked around clicking away as the girls tried to find the prettiest flower for her to shoot, and the ugliest for me. (Kept them busy, didn’t it?)
We wandered the manicured gardens, which were blooming in some spots, past bloom in others. We watched the turtles in the Japaneses pond bask in the sun, and would chuckle at the rare siren or car horn in the distance. For awhile we felt we were as far from downtown Brooklyn as one could get, strolling along in a floral paradise.
The lily pads in the reflecting pools were brimming with dragonflys which danced from flower to flower. The girls raided the gift shops, and even I got a “starving artist” pin. We walked through the greenhouses, each dedicated to “dessert”, “rainforest” and “temperate”.
I’ve commented in the past that I often view taking of flowers are boring, and my mind hasn’t changed. However, no one could ever deny the absolute beauty of a delicate flower. No one could ever not be amazed at the unique detail that gets poured by mother earth into every single petal on every single flower that blooms.
We left the gardens amazed at the beauty we had just witnessed, and I was happy I found another treasure of New York City.
I wonder what a road feels like.
A road is the thing that takes us from point A to point B and back again. It speeds by under the tires of our big fuel guzzling SUVs without even a glimmer of appreciation. Sure, perhaps we’ll glance out the windows at the trees whizzing by, ooh and ahh at the houses and scenic views, but mostly they go unnoticed.
Today I left the house with a new word in my pocket. Its a word that should have been so simple that I could have completed it by the time I reached the corner, but something wasn’t there today, I couldn’t see anything through my lens, no matter how far I walked, especially when it came to seeing that word. I walked farther along until I came to a pretty busy road that runs through a park, one of the biggest roads in Queens. It gets pretty wooded, the two lane black top snaking through a forest which most of the area would look like if not for the work of man.
The word I had come to look for had already slipped so far from my mind that I could barely even remember it. I carried my camera in my hand listening to the whizzing cars rush past me. In between them, the silence of the woods returned only to be shattered within seconds by another passing car. As I walked, I became aware of the road. My eyes drifted along and I began to notice not only the road, and as I said, how ignored and unloved it was, but even worse what was left along side of it. Trash littered the curb, things tossed out a car window, discarded by the owner.
We live in a society being eaten alive by our own garbage. I don’t want to interject my own feelings on global warming or how we’re beating our planet to a horrid death, so I’ll just leave it as saying I was appalled by the litter around me.
I looked at all the trash around me, I looked at it through the lens of my camera, and when I was done, I did something I never do when shooting, I destroyed what I found. Using a plastic bag I found at my feet, I cleaned it up. I picked up the trash laying along the road, stuck it in the bag, and threw it all in the garbage can supplied by the nice people who run the park
My life is in a bad place right now, I have little control of my fate, I’m desperately looking for break, praying for a way to get back on my feat, with very little that I can actually take control of. But this… this I was able to fix… so I did.
Yes, I know it will be back tomorrow, and no I wasn’t able to get all of it, but the bits that I did not only made me feel good, but made that stretch of road that much nicer to look at … if someone else would ever decide to slow down and appreciate it.
Oh … and I left the toilet… it was too big to carry.
Spring is our yearly second chance.
We die through the winter, everything becomes cold and bleak, and even a fresh white blanket of snow eventually turns to a ugly gray eyesore piled up on the curbs of New York City. The wind chills you through to the bones, and I at least, make my way through the streets muttering “There is no reason for weather like this…” and usually a profanity or two.
But soon, the winds die down, the sun peaks from behind the clouds a little longer each day, and you’re not so pissed that you forgot your gloves at home. Winter has left us, and spring has arrived.
Every year around this time I watch the ground. Yes, contrary to what some people think, there are actually patches of ground here in New York City. I’ve always had a piece of it right outside my back door, well, my parent’s back door. Its a small section of property that we here in Queens call “The Yard”. My parents have always taken pride in their yard, it’s a mix of a quiet place to eat BBQ – or actually any meal cooked in this household between June and September when it’s not raining – and a small slice of nature that my parents tend to, consisting of a few flowers, some tomatoes plants and lots of ivy. There’s also a cherry tree that my brother Mike somehow picked up, I don’t remember the story, and remnants of the old magnolia tree that I spent countless hours playing on in my youth.
In my mind, it’s the most beautiful yard in the world.
It’s also the yard that I’ve watched the winters of my life fade away, and the springs sneak in before the summer heat.
What a perfect place to go with my new camera, right? Only one catch, of course, I hate taking pictures of flowers.
I told this once to someone I love once. They bore me, I said, not moving, giving you all the time in the world to frame it, switch lenses, get closer, work on that really nice shot. She said to me, that I should look at it as a thing all photographers need to do, and every really good shot of a flower as one step closer to never having to take a photo of a flower again.
So hopefully these will get me closer to that goal. And if not, I’m not too worried, because no matter how hot the summer gets, and how cold and nasty the winter winds blow, I know all I have to do is wait for spring to return home, and I’ll get another chance.
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
This morning, I got yelled at.
As I sat down at my desk with my first cup of morning coffee, I changed my status on Facebook to “Brian is up & watching the snow fall with the chillin’s…” Shortly afterwards Sue Henry commented, verbally harassing me for not only getting the snow she wants, but also for not being outside taking photos. Now… to begin with, I’m not a snow person, so I sat for a few moments, trying to figure a way to switch places with her. But I realized that she’d have to take it as a whole package deal, which included watching The Hulk cartoon my son was watching, for about the 300th time since I picked him up on Friday, and that might be a deal breaker.
I’m exaggerating her, as I sometimes do, Sue didn’t yell at me, more like politely asked in her typical, glass of lemonade, southern-belle way. But either way, she was right, and it was my new year’s resolution to get out and do more, so I was pretty happy when my folks agreed to change plans from going to a museum with the kids to just frolicking in the snow like a bunch of juveniles.
We dragged out the plastic sled from the basement and headed to the local park, or as my kids call, the “Big Hill Park” and found that there were a lot of others with the same idea. The first run was a great one, but ended with a collision between James and another sledder which turned him off to the whole idea for the rest of the day. He spent the rest of the time throwing snowballs and playing with Grandma.
Jack, on the other hand, became a sledding fool. The second the pull of gravity released him at the bottom of the hill, he was off, and climbing back to the starting line for another race to the bottom.
The snow was light, and soon the grass on the hill was starting to show, and the bite to the air was getting a little stronger, so we decided to head back indoors for some hot chocolate… and besides… Jack wanted to show Grandpa the new Hulk cartoon.