Photog as a model? Can you spot me?

As I recall, about seven years ago, I assisted NYC photographer Michael Prince on an ad job for Toshiba. The job was to be a multi-ethnic cast of your white, black, brown, and yellow crowd. I was part of a three man crew which included Sean Murray and Alfred Yan and we set up cameras and light for the shot. It was very easy and didn’t really seem out of the ordinary for any of us. It was quick and painless from what I recall.

After hours of hair and make-up, light tests, and arrangement of the furniture, the models lined up and pictures were taken. However, the art directors were not pleased…something was missing…an element they couldn’t figure out.

Whispers and fingers were starting to point around the room and all of a sudden, fingers were pointed at me. I got asked to a model in the ad! I figured they needed the Hispanic/Jewish/Mediterranean brown guy in the shot. I was thinner, carried myself well, and people noticed. Sean, surprisingly wasn’t asked and he was an ex model for Bruce Webber! He was much better looking than me but I guess they had their white guy in the shot and the same for Alfred as he’s Chinese and the token hot Asian girl was already staged. Hence the camera turned on me.

I got a quick haircut from the stylist, a boring sweater type jersey, and off I was on the set, pretending to engage in conversation with the model looking guy across from me. I recall being nervous as hell even though I am quite the ham in front of any camera. But a few moments later, I emerged as the hero of the shot and was even told by the photographer “…you pretty much made that shot.”

I walked away from that job with an assistant rate plus a fat modeling check! I quickly figured out lifestyle modeling might be the new career, I can see myself now…exotic locations, model girlfriends, waiter jobs on the side, airports, botox, champagne, flashing lights…ah…the good life. Alas, the road to success remained on the other side of the camera where my face will never get the action it deserves.

New York Review

After living in New York just under 8 years, I can kinda say I, we, became New Yorkers. The fuggitaboutits slid off the tongue easily and quickly, didn’t have to read a map to know which exit to take to get to 25th St and Ave of Americas off the N/R line, and acquired tastes for bagels with a schmear, good pizza, and Indian.

You can only imagine what a change it was to trade cement for sand, hot dowogs for ahi poke, and snow for constant sunshine. But we did and we made it.

NYC/NJ was an amazing place to call home. It took lots of patience and time to get used to Hawaii. You can’t anything you want in Honolulu but who needs it?!?! After living here, it was overwhelming to be around so many jackasses and knuckleheads. Everyone has somewhere to go and they gotta get there quicker than you. Funny enough, after living in New York so many years, I found the most obnoxious people were those that were not born in New York. They were transplants from Minnesota that decided the only way to fit in was to be an ass and do really rude things. So many times, I would encounter some dumb broad (sorry, its my New Yorker comming out!) cut me off on the sidewalk holding a latte while chatting with her friend back home in Nebraska on her cell. I mean just plain rude but an affected rudeness that even natives would laugh at. SoCal dudes who traded their board shorts for boardroom dress huffing past as if they mattered more in the world than you. I could go on.

I don’t think I every really took on a Jerky Boy attitude although some may say different, but after living there so long, just gets under your skin.

So much has changed in five years and its quite amazing to see how neighborhoods have transformed in what seems like overnight. Rich hipsters wearing designer Glass and steel towers sit between century old brick walkups. Where guys wearing Puerto Rican flags and do-rags in their hair now walk blonds with babies, Starbucks, and dogs.

New York has changed for the better to some as its become more homogeneous, if I can use that term. I don’t know if there is a term for homogeneous where race doesn’t matter but money does. Make sense? New York’s poor, or those who can’t afford high rents, fled making way for glass towers, hotels, and $5 expressos.

I’m making general statements but I did see with my own eyes, the color of New York is evaporating. I really didn’t see the waves of ethnicity that once overwhelmed me. I can’t believe how different New York has become. Its seems they, ethnicity fled being replaced by blonds walking their dogs, holding a baby, and drinking a Starbucks. I can only think the boom in real estate drove prices up which pushed taxes up forcing those on the edge to fall. It happened here…all you have to do is look at how many lower middle class and lower class citizens of Hawaii are living on the beaches. Those on the mainland at least can escape to the suburbs or other parts of the city for more affordable living. Hawaiians have no choice.

NYC proved a great trip. Had a really nice time seeing, eating, and being a New Yorker again. I’d entertain returning to the city that never sleeps but after living in Honolulu now for close to five years, its gonna be hard to escape this place.

But as much as I ragged on the changes of New York, I do have another NYC moment…

With my 35mm film camera dangling from my shoulder, I walked past a black guy selling his own self-made hip hop album at the N/R entrance at Union Square. He approached us with a swagger asking if we’d buy his album. I New Yorkerly said “no” in that firm don’t push it confidence. He then copped a look at my Leica asking…

“Is that 35mm film?”

“Yeah,” I snapped.

“Well…youse gots to step it up to digital, babe” flashing his Nikon Coolpix at me.

That was it…he was gone.

I only regret I didn’t get his cd.

A New York moment…

Just got back from a two week trip to New York. Saw several friends, ate great food, had loads of fun, saw lots of changes, and made lots of great memories. More on this later…

I just had to write about a New York moment.

We stopped in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Boro Park and walked around the uniquely Hasidic Jewish neighborhood. Most of the stores are Jewish owned for Jewish customers. We stood out like sore thumbs among the black coats, long beards, and peyos (the distinct curly sideburns). I am not sure if the really anyone took much attention to us but no one really talked to us or seem to welcome us wandering around the block. They all seemed somewhat standoffish and rude but this is New York and most everyone can be standoffish and rude.

We ate pretzels and meandered through the street and stores. Funny enough, I noticed most of the workers besides the Jewish shop keepers were Latinos. Mostly Mexican in my view but probably from all over. Immigrants from Mexico and beyond are found working everywhere. Its amazing. I wonder what would happen if the Mexicans stopped working for a day.

As we wandered, I didn’t take too many pictures as I didn’t want to draw much more attention to and kept a low profile but I kept my Leica around my shoulder. I mean we really stood out.

We walked past a street musician playing a violin while two men chatted. The violinist transported me back to an old time, Eastern Europe at the turn of the century…melancholy and comforting.

We walked down the street and stopped in this grocery store which was run by a rude Israeli who didn’t care for us. As we browsed the lox and schmaltz, these three young Hasidic kids, brothers, no doubt, took an interest in me and my camera. Their little curls bounced back and forth as they stared and slowly surrounded me. A fourth older kid wearing a dark overcoat and heavy brimmed hat hovered next to me but never said a word to me.

The kids didn’t say anything to me and they just kinda stared. Their father talked to them in what I think was Yiddish but the kids really didn’t pay much attention to him. I figured the kids wanted to stare at me as I just didn’t belong in the neighborhood and tourist generally don’t run down and hang out with the Hasidum.

Finally, the youngest asked me if what I had around my shoulder. His brother then answered that it was a camera and asked if it was from the 17th century. Then, the older unrelated kid all of a sudden quipped if that was the camera Einstein used. It was as if everyone was really staring but was afraid to talk to me. Then the younger kid just reached up and took the camera from me and started to fiddle with it. Pointed it at me and started snapping away. His older brother then wrestled the camera away from him and started to fiddle with it as well. Unrelated, as I will now call him, asked why I had such an old camera and pulled out a shiny Canon powershot from his coat pocket as if bragging he was was more up to date than me.

Funny–all these Hasdium with their turn of the century fashions and customs were bettering me with camera technology! Ironic, no?

As the wrestling kept going on over the camera between the two brothers, I feared the camera was going to crash to the ground so I took the strap and placed it around the youngest ones neck. Their father, who was dressed in dark knickers, coat, and black socks, snapped at the kids to leave me alone but they persisted despite his protests. I then was absorbed into a conversation by Unrelated who wanted to know where we were from. He was probably in his mid teens and had a voice which made him sound like Brando with Seinfeld’s NYC Jewish accent. I told him we were from Hawaii and he had a look of amazement on his face as he probably searched his mind’s map to find out where Hawaii is. He then said he’d just read Obama’s biography and asked if I liked him. We then talked quickly about politics as my attention was focused on my Leica and the fear it would come tumbling to the ground. The younger brother figured out focus and snapped a picture of me.

Unrelated continued the political talk on Obama and said remarked how the US military supported McCain and how it would be difficult for Obama to win. I asked him if the Jewish community supported Obama and he took a look concern stating he didn’t think many would support him. He was quite young to know so much about politics and I was impressed with his level of education.

Finally the father of the three won the battle and the kids gave me back my camera and ran off. But not before I was able to snap off a quick one of the three Leica tormentors. My camera survived the Jewish attack and I walked away with a great little picture of a funny New York moment.