Tango at Pier 45, Apr 2014 – 15

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A few nice best picture Statue of Liberty images I found:

Chance to Win DREAM TRIP


Tango at Pier 45, Apr 2014 – 15
best picture Statue of Liberty
Image by Ed Yourdon
(more details later, as time permits)


It’s been a little over a year since the afternoon in March 2013 when I last photographed the tango dancers in New York City — even though I know they come together every Sunday afternoon, down at the end of Pier 45 (where Christopher Street runs into the Hudson River in the West Village) through spring, summer, and fall seasons. But I’ve been busy with other projects, and also photographing other events and gatherings … so I eventually forgot all about the dancers and the pier, and drifted an entire summer, fall and winter before there was a combination of free time and clear skies in mid-April that reminded me that I should see what Pier 45 looked like, once again.

It occurred to me that tango (and any other form of dance) is all about movement and sound; you can’t very well stand silently, in one place, and tell people that you’ve been dancing the tango. So I spent much of my time, on this excursion, taking video-recordings of the dancers. These aren’t Hollywood movies, but they’ll give you much more a visual and audio sense of what goes on than you might have gotten from a collection of “still” photos.

As for the still photos included in this album: they’re mostly of the people who were sitting and talking, or walking and strolling, on the periphery of the dance area. So they don’t really have anything to do with tango dancing per se; but in my own head, I always associate them with the dance “scene.”

I’ve created Flickr albums of roughly a dozen different tango dances, which you can see here on Flickr:


And if you don’t know what any of this is about, it might be useful to see the notes that I attached to my first tango album, taken in Washington, DC in the summer of 2009:


Let me begin with a disclaimer: I do not dance the tango, and I know little or nothing about its history, its folklore, or even its steps and rhythms. I’m vaguely aware that it originated in Argentina (and Uruguay) in the 1890s, that a new style known as "tango nuevo" began to emerge in the late 1990s, and that various actors and actresses — including Jessica Biel, Colin Firth, Antonio Banderas, Madonna, Richard Gere, Jennifer Lopez, Jamie Lee Curtis, and Arnold Schwarzenegger(!), among others — have performed the tango in various movies. But beyond that, it never really occurred to me that it played any significant role here in the U.S.

That is, not until the summer of 2009, when I happened to return to my hotel, on a business trip to Washington, DC, just as a local gathering of tango aficionados was dancing to their music in a nearby square known as Freedom Plaza. I photographed the event (see my Flickr set Last tango in Washington) and learned from one of the participants that there were similar informal events in New York City, at the South Street seaport, during the summer and fall weekends. When I got back to New York, I searched on the Internet, and found a schedule of upcoming tango events just as my Washington acquaintance had indicated; but travel schedules, inclement weather, and other distractions prevented me from actually attending any of them; by the end of the autumn season, I had forgotten all about it.

For some reason, something reminded me of the tango again this spring — perhaps some music that I overheard, perhaps a scene on some otherwise forgettable television show. In any case, I searched again on the Internet, and discovered that a tango "event" would be taking place on a Sunday afternoon — but not at the South Street Seaport (on the east side of Manhattan, near the Brooklyn and Manhattan Bridges), but rather at Pier 45, where Christopher Street runs into the Hudson River in Greenwich Village. The event was scheduled to take place between 3:30 and 7:30 PM, and another quick search on the Internet informed me that sunset would occur at 7:30 PM. So I arrived a little before 6 PM, as the sun was beginning to drop down in the western sky, and photographed for a little more than an hour.

I captured some 522 images, of which 75 have survived in this Flickr set. For the majority of the photos, I stood at the end of the pier, with my back to the Hudson River and the sinking sun; the sun broken in and out of clouds on the horizon — and because I was wearing sunglasses, I didn’t fully appreciate the extent of sun-glare that was often striking the faces of the dancers, as well as the shadows where the sun wasn’t hitting at all. But I think I recovered most of the inadvertent over-exposure and under-exposure with some post-processing on the computer… I was also able to get some shots facing westward and southward, so that you could see the New Jersey skyline behind the dancers; indeed, there are a couple of shots with the Statue of Liberty and the Verrazano Bridge in the background. (Note to self: come back here at twilight, on a Sunday evening in mid-summer; it could well be even more spectacular.)

Since I have no personal expertise (or even competence) at the dance, there’s not much that I can say about what’s going on; I have to let the pictures speak for themselves. Though it wasn’t universally true, I noticed several occasions where the women were taller than their partners; I gather that that’s an advantage when the dancers are twirling and twisting around. Also, I had the distinct impression — just as was the case in Washington last summer — that few (if any) of the dancers were "couples" in the traditional sense. Indeed, many of them seemed to be strangers who had met for the first time at this tango event, but who seemed to enjoy the experience of the dance together. And others, from what little I could tell, might have encountered one another at previous tango events — but had no other interactions or relationship with one another.

In any case, I had photographed everything I could imagine photographing by a little after 7 PM. I put away my camera equipment, walked a few blocks east to Hudson Street to enjoy a delicious dinner at a local restaurant with my wife, and made a note to check the Internet again for future tango events in Central Park and the South Street Seaport. If you’d like to pursue this on your own, check out Richard Lipkin’s Guide to Argentine Tango in New York City.


New Yorkers sometimes ignore the subtle messages …
best picture Statue of Liberty
Image by Ed Yourdon
This photo was taken on Park Avenue, between 42nd and 41st Street. The signs are advising motorists not to attempt switching over to the extreme left lane after they exit from underneath the Pan Am building (which some people insist on calling the Met Life building) while traveling south on Park Avenue. Oh, yeah, and cyclists and pedestrians shouldn’t be here at all. Go home.

I chose this as my "photo of the day" for Sep 22, 2013.


This set of photos is based on a very simple concept: walk every block of Manhattan with a camera, and see what happens. To avoid missing anything, walk both sides of the street.

That’s all there is to it …

Of course, if you wanted to be more ambitious, you could also walk the streets of Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island, and the Bronx. But that’s more than I’m willing to commit to at this point, and I’ll leave the remaining boroughs of New York City to other, more adventurous photographers.

Oh, actually, there’s one more small detail: leave the photos alone for a month — unedited, untouched, and unviewed. By the time I actually focus on the first of these "every-block" photos, I will have taken more than 8,000 images on the nearby streets of the Upper West Side — plus another several thousand in Rome, Coney Island, and the various spots in NYC where I traditionally take photos. So I don’t expect to be emotionally attached to any of the "every-block" photos, and hope that I’ll be able to make an objective selection of the ones worth looking at.

As for the criteria that I’ve used to select the small subset of every-block photos that get uploaded to Flickr: there are three. First, I’ll upload any photo that I think is "great," and where I hope the reaction of my Flickr-friends will be, "I have no idea when or where that photo was taken, but it’s really a terrific picture!"

A second criterion has to do with place, and the third involves time. I’m hoping that I’ll take some photos that clearly say, "This is New York!" to anyone who looks at it. Obviously, certain landscape icons like the Empire State Building or the Statue of Liberty would satisfy that criterion; but I’m hoping that I’ll find other, more unexpected examples. I hope that I’ll be able to take some shots that will make a "local" viewer say, "Well, even if that’s not recognizable to someone from another part of the country, or another part of the world, I know that that’s New York!" And there might be some photos where a "non-local" viewer might say, "I had no idea that there was anyplace in New York City that was so interesting/beautiful/ugly/spectacular."

As for the sense of time: I remember wandering around my neighborhood in 2005, photographing various shops, stores, restaurants, and business establishments — and then casually looking at the photos about five years later, and being stunned by how much had changed. Little by little, store by store, day by day, things change … and when you’ve been around as long as I have, it’s even more amazing to go back and look at the photos you took thirty or forty years ago, and ask yourself, "Was it really like that back then? Seriously, did people really wear bell-bottom jeans?"

So, with the expectation that I’ll be looking at these every-block photos five or ten years from now (and maybe you will be, too), I’m going to be doing my best to capture scenes that convey the sense that they were taken in the year 2013 … or at least sometime in the decade of the 2010’s (I have no idea what we’re calling this decade yet). Or maybe they’ll just say to us, "This is what it was like a dozen years after 9-11".

Movie posters are a trivial example of such a time-specific image; I’ve already taken a bunch, and I don’t know if I’ll ultimately decide that they’re worth uploading. Women’s fashion/styles are another obvious example of a time-specific phenomenon; and even though I’m definitely not a fashion expert, I suspected that I’ll be able to look at some images ten years from now and mutter to myself, "Did we really wear shirts like that? Did women really wear those weird skirts that are short in the front, and long in the back? Did everyone in New York have a tattoo?"

Another example: I’m fascinated by the interactions that people have with their cellphones out on the street. It seems that everyone has one, which certainly wasn’t true a decade ago; and it seems that everyone walks down the street with their eyes and their entire conscious attention riveted on this little box-like gadget, utterly oblivious about anything else that might be going on (among other things, that makes it very easy for me to photograph them without their even noticing, particularly if they’ve also got earphones so they can listen to music or carry on a phone conversation). But I can’t help wondering whether this kind of social behavior will seem bizarre a decade from now … especially if our cellphones have become so miniaturized that they’re incorporated into the glasses we wear, or implanted directly into our eyeballs.

Oh, one last thing: I’ve created a customized Google Map to show the precise details of each day’s photo-walk. I’ll be updating it each day, and the most recent part of my every-block journey will be marked in red, to differentiate it from all of the older segments of the journey, which will be shown in blue. You can see the map, and peek at it each day to see where I’ve been, by clicking on this link

URL link to Ed’s every-block progress through Manhattan

If you have any suggestions about places that I should definitely visit to get some good photos, or if you’d like me to photograph you in your little corner of New York City, please let me know. You can send me a Flickr-mail message, or you can email me directly at ed-at-yourdon-dot-com

Stay tuned as the photo-walk continues, block by block …

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