Arts in New York City: Baruch College, Fall 2008, Professor Roslyn Bernstein
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City Lights

City Lights



Initially I had no idea what my photography theme would be. I love taking pictures, so I have a hard time holding back and focusing on a specific subject matter. Because of my obsessive clicking with a camera, I decided I would just take a million pictures and then decide what my theme could be, choosing a few photos with a unifying connection.

             After only taking a few random photographs, I had a better idea of what I wanted my theme to be. I ended up deciding on a theme I call “City Lights” because I like taking photographs that have glare from light or that use light to make contour shadows more apparent, adding contrast. Light is one of the main components of photography since it has to do with both the flash and the shutter, among other technicalities. The first photograph that caught my interest was one called “Prism.” Its really interesting glare flooded my mind with images from memory of the pictures I have taken which showcase the unpredictable qualities which light can bring forth.

            In a city with numerous streetlights, car lights, building lights, and lampposts, the task of photographing pictures with light as the emphasis seemed pretty easy. However, I could not use pictures with interesting reflections made by the sun because the weather was dreary on all of the days I took photos. I wanted to also emphasize the interesting reflections made by the flash, or lack there of, on glass surfaces such as windows. This is a very difficult thing to capture and takes up time used for trial and error since reflection pictures are often blurry if you do not use flash or washed out if you do. In the city, everything and everyone moves so fast that I did not have time to capture many successful reflection pictures.

Since I did not want the pictures to appear forced but I wanted them to just happen naturally, the type of pictures I could use was limited. Also, I had to expand the types of photos I would use. Cloudy days made me realize that my favorite “Prism” photograph may be hard to recreate during the daytime because of the lack of sun. I wanted to avoid photographs containing gray skies in a theme based around light. I then decided that it would be a good idea to take pictures at dusk so as to capture the lit streetlamps and the contrast between the dark of night and bright lights of New York. Taking pictures at night is difficult because my camera’s flash and lenses are not exactly well suited for the dark. I had to experiment with my camera’s settings depending on the amount of light each scene I photographed contained. Many of the photographs I took turned out to be blurry. When I saw a photo opportunity, I had to take the photo several times using different settings and then decide which one came out better. My photograph “Park After Dark” was one of the most difficult pictures to take. Out of taking six pictures of the sculptures, the one that I put in my power point was the last one I took, and it was the only photograph that was not blurry.

            Another challenge that I had was deciding whether or not the photos I wanted to use exemplified my theme and did not have too many distractions to take away from what I intended by the photograph. I wanted my photos to be cohesive, yet varied. I had to get over the fact that people might not see my pictures in the same light I do, no pun intended. Some of my night pictures were blurry but in a good way. I found them surreal, but I had to decide whether or not they might take away from the overall theme of my pictures.

            One of the most intimidating obstacles that street photographers must endure is the anonymous passer-bys who may not be so happy to be in your picture. When I shot my “Crossing Paths” photograph on Park Avenue, there was a woman in the middle of the intersection waiting to cross. When the light turned red, and I began to cross, she shouted into my face angrily, “Were you just taking a picture of me?” I said “Nope,” and kept on walking. Then, I realized that I wanted to tell her, “Don’t flatter yourself.” She was ugly and mean. She barely shows up in the picture, too. She was far away and the lighting is not upon her one bit. Maybe it is symbolic that she is hidden in the dark.

            Overall, the street photography project was a good experience because it allowed me to choose a theme and take photographs around my theme instead of just taking random photographs. It was a little weird, however, to take pictures in New York City because it made me feel like I was carrying around a huge sign that lit up and said “TOURIST.”