Lunch time at Le Pain Quotidien

Lunch time at Le Pain Quotidien
what's a millennial
Image by Ed Yourdon
Note: this photo was published in a Mar 24, 2015 blog titled "Airlines are sneakily raising fees — here’s how." It was also published in a Jun 24, 2015 blog titled "The 9 worst money mistakes to make in your 20s."


This is the continuation of a photo-project that I began in the summer of 2008 (which you can see in this Flickr set), and continued throughout 2009, 2010, 2011, and 2012 (as shown in this Flickr set, this Flickr set, this Flickr set, this Flickr set, and this Flickr set)
): a random collection of "interesting" people in a broad stretch of the Upper West Side of Manhattan — between 72nd Street and 104th Street, especially along Broadway and Amsterdam Avenue. These are the people in my neighborhood, aka "peeps in the ‘hood."

As I indicated when I first started this project six years ago, I don’t like to intrude on people’s privacy, so I normally use a zoom telephoto lens in order to photograph them while they’re still 50-100 feet away from me; but that means I have to continue focusing my attention on the people and activities half a block away, rather than on what’s right in front of me. Sometimes I find an empty bench on a busy street corner, and just sit quietly for an hour, watching people hustling past on the other side of the street; they’re almost always so busy listening to their iPod, or talking on their cellphone, or daydreaming about something, that they never look up and see me aiming my camera in their direction.

I’ve also learned that, in many cases, the opportunities for an interesting picture are very fleeting — literally a matter of a couple of seconds, before the person(s) in question move on, turn away, or stop doing whatever was interesting. So I’ve learned to keep my camera switched on, and not worry so much about zooming in for a perfectly-framed picture … after all, once the digital image is uploaded to my computer, it’s pretty trivial to crop out the parts unrelated to the main subject. Indeed, some of my most interesting photos have been so-called "hip shots," where I don’t even bother to raise the camera up to my eye; I just keep the zoom lens set to the maximum wide-angle aperture, point in the general direction of the subject, and take several shots. As long as I can keep the shutter speed fairly high (which sometimes requires a fairly high ISO setting), I can usually get some fairly crisp shots — even if the subject is walking in one direction, and I’m walking in the other direction, while I’m snapping the photos.

With only a few exceptions, I’ve generally avoided photographing bums, drunks, crazies, and homeless people. There are plenty of them around, and they would certainly create some dramatic pictures; but they generally don’t want to be photographed, and I don’t want to feel like I’m taking advantage of them. There have been a few opportunities to take some "sympathetic" pictures of such people, which might inspire others to reach out and help them. This is one example, and here is another example.

The other thing I’ve noticed, while carrying on this project for the past six years, is that while there are lots of interesting people to photograph, there are far, far, far more people who are not so interesting. They’re probably fine people, and they might even be more interesting than the ones I’ve photographed … unfortunately, there was just nothing memorable about them. They’re all part of this big, crowded city; but for better or worse, there are an awful lot that you won’t see in these Flickr sets of mine…

Leave a Reply