Friday, January 14, 2011


The big flakes were coming down. I had to get a move on if I wanted to get some snowy shots before the precipitation was supposed to peter out by mid-afternoon. I brought out the YashMat loaded with my standby film, Ilford Delta Pro 100. That meant I'd have my aperture open, shooting at slow speeds, and getting some "mood" shots (I have no idea what "mood" shots are).

Near the northwest corner of the park, just north of the subway entrance, I could tell from the crowd language that something was going on that involved the police. A man and a woman were holding each other — she was crying. They clearly both were homeless or borderline homeless, junkies or borderline junkies (I'm not sure there's such a thing as a "borderline junkie." They were both clearly distressed, and talking to the park police.

I took out my YashMat and started walking towards the scene. The male of the couple looked at me and yelled, "IF YOU TAKE A FUCKIN' PICTURE I'LL BREAK YOUR FUCKIN' HEAD OPEN!." I ignored him and he shouted the same message at me again. Now I didn't seriously think he was going to break my fuckin' head open right there in front of everyone, let alone the park police, but sometimes it's wise not to inflame an already flammable situation.

As I backed off a chinaman was saying to me, "Take picture! You allowed! Take picture!" Instead of exploiting the homeless/junkie couple's misery for some compliments on Flickr by total strangers and something to post here, I decided to shoot the scene around the scene.

The woman below was quite enjoying the spectacle, saying, "I'm experiencing a New York moment!"

Nobody in the crowd seemed to know what was going on, and I was just about ready to leave when a person of interest entered the fray. He looked like any other bum with a 40oz of god knows what in a black plastic bag who started talking to the park cops. He didn't come across as violent, but the park cops were very interested in continuing their conversation with him. Mind you, I wasn't able to hear any of what they were saying, until the bum started to walk away from the cops. They didn't like that, and began commanding that he stop walking away. But I heard very clearly when one of the cops said, "Stop, or I'll mace you." I was looking through the YashMat without using the magnifier, wondering where my focus was, and backing up at the same time since this whole potential macing was heading right in my direction, as you can see:

Or maybe you can't see it so clearly. I didn't leave the house thinking I'd be catching a police action on camera. I was just interested in maybe taking some shots of the Flatiron in the snow, you know, ripping off Stieglitz. So with my slow film and my slow shutter speed and my wide open aperture with a low depth of field, sometimes the best you can do is what I got above. Of course if I had known in advance I'd be documenting police work, I'd have been rolling with some 3200, maybe pulling to 1600 or even 800, but I'd have that faster shutter speed and greater depth of field...but life doesn't work that way. I've said it before on this blog and I'll say it again. You're always going to miss shots, but there's always going to be another shot coming.

The mace came out like silly string, but smoother. I guess people learned that it's easier to operate when everybody isn't coughing and wheezing from pepper spray. Now what follows is the predictable progression of what happens after you get maced by the cops because of non-compliance.

They get on either side of you:

Then they introduce you to their friend, the ground:

Hello ground:

Sometime it's hart to get them to lie flat on the ground once they're down there:

Now in the prone position, handcuffs are applied:

And so forth:

Perhaps you'll notice the digital shooter in the background.

Finally, with things wrapping up, I decided to get a shot from the opposite angle. I could take my time to compose and focus as the digital shooter (who I was now right next to), kept shooting away:

That was my last shot of the roll, and I had no other cameras with me loaded for action. Shots of the man being dragged to his feet and led away would have to wait for another day. No, that makes no sense. I don't regret going out with my slow film, even if I didn't capture this incident quite as I would have wanted.

It's okay. There are more bums, more junkies, and more cops to run into out there. But there are also couples in love, parents playing with children, and smiling faces too.

I'm really trying to resist this....I can't. I'm sorry. Yes, I admit it, I'm a hack:

There are eight million stories in The Naked City, this has been one of them.


  1. You realize that this is so much more interesting because you shot it on film. I think you did a grand job of telling the story and getting the photographs.

    I am glad that you added the woman having her "NY moment". Classic!

  2. Thank you. I did what I could.