No, Melanie, you can’t ask that man for ice cream. You have to wait until we get to the party!
Image by Ed Yourdon
Note: this photo was published in an Apr 27, 2011 Everyblock NYC zipcodes blog titled "10023."
This is a continuation of Flickr sets that I created in 2010 (shown here), 2009 (shown here), and 2008 (shown here) — which, collectively, illustrate a variety of scenes and people in the small "pocket park" known as Verdi Square, located at 72nd Street and Broadway in New York City’s Upper West Side, right by the 72nd St. IRT subway station.
I typically visit a local gym once or twice a week, and I get there by taking the downtown IRT express from my home (at 96th Street) down to the 72nd Street stop. Whenever possible, I try to schedule an extra 30-60 minutes to sit quietly on one of the park benches, and just watch the flow of people coming in and out of the park — sometimes just passing through, to get from 72nd Street up to 73rd Street, but mostly entering or exiting the subway station.
You see all kinds of people here: students, bums, tourists, office workers, homeless people, retired people, babysitters, children, soldiers, sanitation workers, lovers, friends, dogs, cats, pigeons, and a few things that simply defy description. Sometimes you see the same people over and over again; sometimes they follow a regular pattern at a particular time of the day.
If I focus on the people entering the park at 73rd Street, and walking southwards toward the subway entrance, I typically have five or ten seconds to (a) decide if they’re sufficiently interesting to bother photographing,(b) wait for them to get in a position where I can get a clear shot of them, and (c) focus my camera on them and take several shots, in the hope that at least one or two of them will be well-focused and really interesting.
While you might get the impression that I photograph every single person who moves through this park, it’s actually just the opposite: the vast majority of people that I see here are just not all that interesting. (It’s not that they’re ugly, it’s just that there’s nothing interesting, memorable, or distinctive about them.) Even so, I might well take, say, 200 shots in the space of an hour. But some of them are repetitive or redundant, and others are blurred or out-of-focus, or technically defective in some other way. Of the ones that survive this kind of scrutiny, many turn out to be well-focused, nicely-composed, but … well … just "okay". I’ll keep them on my computer, just in case, but I don’t bother uploading them.
Typically, only about 5-10% of the photos I’ve taken get uploaded to Flickr — e.g., about 10 photos from a one-hour session in which a thousand, or more, people have walked past me. There are some exceptions to this rule of thumb, as was the case with this particular set — but nevertheless, what you’re seeing it is indeed only a tiny, tiny subset of the "real" street scene in New York City. On the other hand, it is reassuring to see that there are at least a few "interesting" people in a city that often has a reputation of being mean, cold, and heartless…