I’ve been to New York City two times in my lifetime. The first visit consisted of four guys in a two door car; driving 10 hours from Toledo to NYC. That trip really didn’t have a purpose. There was no plan, no agenda, no preset list of destinations or accomplishments. It was just a group of guys in their early 20’s on a road trip to see the Big Apple. I still had the film camera that my brother had given me as a graduation gift a few years prior and I made sure I left on that trip with a cargo pocket full of blank film and a pack or two of fresh AA batteries. I took a lot of photos during that trip, but I knew nothing of photography and the resulting images turned out bland and unremarkable.
My second trip to New York occurred 7 or 8 years later when a former employer sent me to a seminar in New Brunswick, New Jersey. Trying to make the best out of the situation, I visited NYC for a few days after my obligations in NJ were met. Once there, I spent a few days wandering around and shooting whatever seemed to interest me. This time I was armed with better equipment and a new-found appreciation for photography as an art. However, like before, I still didn’t have a plan or predetermined agenda. I just walked and shot.
As I eluded earlier, the photos from my first New York trip were rather unimpressive. It took me 9 years to get them developed, and while it’s sometimes enjoyable to look back on old imagery, this series of photos could probably have remained undeveloped. Nevertheless, reviewing the imagery sparked an interest to review the digital photos from my second trip to New York. I’d seen all the images at least 20 times but upon this review, I took a closer look at a series of photos I shot outside of the Radio City Musical Hall on 6th Avenue. In my wanderings, I stumbled across this building and instantly recognized the name. I was very fond of my fish-eye lens during that time as it was still relatively new to me. Using the forced distortion of the lens, I stood for maybe a minute or two to shoot a warped perspective of the building and then I quickly continued down 6th Avenue on my uninhibited trek.
This image of the Radio City Music Hall sat idle on my PC until I reviewed it for the 21st time; out of a combination of boredom and nostalgia. It was then and only then, that I noticed the most striking part of this particular photo, the brilliant color. The red and blue neon lights had flickered on and off for decades well before I stood in front of them; craning my neck to see the top of the structure. However, that didn’t change their brilliance, their radiance, their power over the cold winter dark. The sidewalks were lined with freshly shoveled snow and the streets were wet from a recent salting. The neon lights danced off of just about every surface while the moon struggled to compete. The warm, inviting light is a stark contrast to the bitter cold winter night that I remember.
I found myself disappointed with the photos I took on my first trip to New York, and perhaps in an effort to evaluate my own understanding of photography, I reviewed the images I had taken from that second trip. In a half-slumbered mouse-clicking marathon, I stumbled across this image and found myself immediately inspired by it. This photo was buried in my archives; lost in a digital sea of ones and zeroes. We are only seeing it today due to a random act of contemporary review. I knew I was there, I knew I took photos of the building, I remember reviewing those photos; but I never truly considered their worth. Now, in lieu of that review, I have an image to share and a memory to accompany it.
We are taught at a very early age that practice makes perfect. Nothing is ever complete the first time around. We write drafts, make early attempts and generally just “take a stab” at things before we truly master them. We are not perfect creatures; we miss things and make mistakes. This is part of what makes us human. We often don’t see the meaningful images in our lives until we go back and revisit them. Many things in life deserve a second review, a second chance to prove their worth. In the case of this photo, it took 21 or so reviews before I finally saw the value in it.