Monday, July 24, 2006

This Day In History, 1992

Fourteen years ago I was living in Brooklyn, in an artist-soaked neighborhood called Park Slope. There are quite a few photographers in the Slope, including one of my very best pals, Jimmy Rudnick.

Jimmy and I lived on Union Street, about a block and a half apart. We could each walk to the corner of Seventh Avenue (from opposite directions) and meet for lunch if we weren't shooting, and we could do little stock shoots together.

Though we'd be in the same place at the same time, we always managed to make significantly different images... only on extremely rare occasions would we exactly duplicate each other's picture. It was a great arrangement. One day I'd drive, the next time Jimmy would (depended largely on who had a good spot as far as alternate side parking was concerned); we'd have company and interesting, though sometimes moronic, conversation (he knows I'm joking!); smoke cigars, whatever.

We were two guys with cameras on the loose in New York City. Prowling the waterfront, slinking along rooftops, climbing bridges, we did it all... and we made some great pictures while making fun of ourselves and each other.

We'd cultivated a relationship with a guy who managed several Manhattan-facing, riverfront properties and had access to a number of DUMBO* rooftops. One had an vacant floor at the top where we could shoot from an inside space, very sheltered, with windows that opened to shoot through. That spot was a gold mine for us: not only great views, but in winter we were warm and out of the wind, in summer we were shaded from the hot sun in air-conditioned comfort, it was clean and had a bathroom. We hit it often.

One evening, July 24, 1992, we were on-location in the clock tower when the ferry "Spirit Of New York" passed our spot, motoring up the East River (North) on a counter-clockwise sunset cruise around Manhattan. As it passed our location I quickly changed lenses and began shooting as she went by. Rudnick started laughing hysterically. I got off a roll of film, rather casually; and when Jimmy recovered enough composure to speak, he chided me good-naturedly for making the cliche photo of the year....

Jimmy looks like a cross between a longshoreman and Gene Shalit, but thin (unlike Shalit, though it would be fun to see which of them has the larger moustache!). He had this big grin on his unshaven face, a cigar poking out from beneath the largest brush on the east coast and he chuckles: "You idiot, don't you know that's the biggest cliche in the world?"

"So what," I shot back.

"Hey handsome, you're a fool! What a waste of film," he said dismissively, but with a big grin and a bigger chuckle.

I admit it is a cliche. I mean, it says Spirit Of New York in HUGE letters on the side of the boat, it's under the Manhattan Bridge in front of the Empire State Building & the whole Manhattan skyline. I was really being literal, nothing clever about this picture... nothing at all!

But it wasn't a waste of film... I've licensed that cliche 18 times since then for a very high four-figure sum, cost me $13.75. Better than a poke in the eye, eh Jimbo? ;-)

*DUMBO: a trendy Brooklyn neighborhood Down Under Manhattan Bridge Overpass, and, you guessed it, it's near the Manhattan Bridge)


Blogger blaine said...

Hey Joesph,
I've always admired your work and just found your blog, so I've been reading your stories much to my enjoyment. I love "behind the scenes" stories like this one. I recently put a similar story on my blog too about a stock photo of mine that sold.
Keep the stories coming!

2:52 AM  

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