Every day for the last 15 months, I’ve posted a photo of the day on Facebook. Usually the photo I post is actually my favorite of those I’ve taken on a given day, but every so often there is an exception. Over a year of posting photos on Facebook has taught me how to play to that crowd. It is strictly mass marketing – the close up of the flower, the cute kid, the funny pet. Throw in a sunset or a pretty landscape now and then, or an interesting person with a nice story, a la Humans of New York. These are the things that gain traction and lots of ‘likes’ in a Facebook newsfeed.
So when that exception comes along – that photo I love for reasons other than that it is well-composed or aesthetically pleasing, I hesitate to post it.
Last Saturday I took such a photo. We were in Columbus Circle just after sundown with a group of Maya’s friends on the eve of her birthday, and I was taking all the expected shots – of the girls, of the fountains – when something unexpected happened. A voice behind me said, “Where are you guys from?” I turned to see a young man, maybe in his early 20′s, holding a skateboard. He was one of a few die hard skateboarders who are always hanging out in the Circle, timing their runs to coincide with the gaps in the never-ending stream of people walking by. I told him we live here and were just hanging out with some friends for my daughter’s birthday. He was slightly embarrassed, I think, at mistaking me for an out-of-towner, but it happens all the time when I’m out with my camera. We chatted a bit; turns out he is from Lansing, Michigan (he was actually wearing a t-shirt that said LANSING in huge letters across the front) and is in NY by way of Los Angeles. I told him I’m originally from Indiana and that all the cool midwesterners wind up on the coast. He laughed. I asked him his name. ”Tyler,” he said. ”I’m Amy. Nice to meet you,” and I held out my hand. ”Oh, my hand is dirty,” he said. ”I don’t care,” I replied, and he looked surprised but shook my hand. Then he was off on another run.
I hadn’t been paying any attention to the skateboarders before that. Honestly I sometimes consider them a nuisance, but mostly they remain in the background; just another of the many kinds of white noise that make up the hum of the city. Now, because of being mistaken for a tourist, they catapulted to the front of my consciousness. And so I started watching them and taking photos.
The one below is my favorite. I love it so much I want it blown up on a wall somewhere so I can stare at it for hours. That’s another thing you can’t say on Facebook. It’s kind of unseemly & insufferable to praise your own work – and I really try to avoid it. But this is my blog, so what the hey.
I love the fact that Tyler – that’s him in the white t-shirt – is the only thing in focus. The bent position of his torso exactly mirrors the slant of the fountain shooting up in the background, and his hat is the same color as the red in the food cart umbrella. He is concentrating, but none of the other people in the photo are looking at him. He’s probably just white noise to them, too.
This photo would not play well on Facebook. I could tell the story of meeting him, which might help, but there is more; it’s kinetic and a perfect city moment; things are moving and blurred but one element stands out.
This is my real photo of the day.