New York 72 Hours: Street Photography

Take a look at the big city, the stars, gritty backstreets and gleaming skyscrapers in NEW YORK 72 HOURS: STREET PHOTOGRAPHY.

This sixteen-piece exhibit was shot in New York City, June 10-13, 2013.

I used the Sony NEX 5N compact mirrorless camera for this shoot. All photographs were taken with the Sony prime E-mount 50 mm f/1.8 lens, with the exception of the Cyndi Lauper photograph, which utilized the 55-210 mm attached to the DH1758 tele-conversion lens.


Below: West 47th Shadows. Many roads lead to Times Square. West 47th is one of the less glamorous routes; maybe that’s why I enjoy this view so much. Yes we can see the pristine marquee of the Chicago musical, but first there’s the venerable Pig ‘n’ Whistle Irish Pub. West 47th Shadows was shot in black and white with the green filter. This effect was composed in-camera, so my viewfinder looked exactly as you see here. Live -action view is critical for artistic reasons– I can compose the shot based on how the finished picture will look. All of the exhibit’s partial-color shots were composed live, on-scene.

West 47th Shadowsweb Below: Times Square Summer. I wanted one photograph to capture the “packedness” of the Square, while avoiding the standard sightline cliches. The camera’s red filter accentuates the landmark TKTS booth. The flag, the fire and “this is summer” messaging on the double electric boards, as well as the red light were all patiently synched for the shot you see here.

Times Square Summerweb

Below: Reach. So much of this scene appeals to me. Who cares about a standpipe? In this photograph, I am working really hard to get you to care. The top portion, made of beautifully-worked brass, shows character details of flame-cutting and years of utility and modest servitude. The camera’s high f-stop gives us sharp detail, including the shadow of the chain, which is seen calmly reaching for its counterpart. Reach is important to this exhibit because there is such a solid and literal connection to the street. In New York, we spend so much time looking up. For this moment, we have an alternative.


Below: Rockefeller Colors. This photograph is, in many ways, the centerpiece of the New York 72 Hours collection. The picture was shot with a tilt-shift emulator, built into the camera. Tilt-shift provides a band of top-to-bottom sharpness on the center facing; the top bricks are as clear as those on the bottom. Back home in my studio, the image was split and butterflied, for a perfect tower perspective. Over eighteen hours of post-production went into this piece, which is comprised of thirty layers and twenty organic tints, each chosen to color a window or brick in an interesting way. The lower center windows have a stained-glass look to them; I wanted as much natural color variation as I could manage, using the organic tints. The photograph was built much like a scale model, piece by piece. The Rockefeller Building is one of the most photographed objects in the world; my guess is that several hundred snapshots are taken every minute. This is one done my way.

Rockefeller Colors

Below: The Offering. Very simply, I was moved by the casual lay of the two hydrangeas. To me, they seemed to be humble offerings to the mercurial statue. They are honoring the goddess, an action of which I am quite familiar.

The Offeringweb

Below: Sunset. As the sun sets on Rockefeller Plaza, light strikes the flag guardians in a selective but thorough manner. Combined with the thousands of pinpoint electric lights on each tree, the scene is magnificent. The sunlight creates a wonderfully-balanced light and shade illumination for less than eight minutes. And then it’s gone.


Below: 6th Avenue Night Life. Radio City Music Hall has a rich history and it’s a part of old New York that I love. 9 PM, June 12th: I cranked the camera’s exposure value (EV) to three clicks, pulling in defining light with very little noise. I didn’t want this photograph to show the darkness of the city; I wanted the neon to sit evenly with the buildings’ natural tones.


Below: Avenue of the Americas. The night moves on, bodies emerge, human and steel, and we show our sophistication in the midst of the midnight blues.

Avenue of the Americasweb

Below: Reflections. Darkness hands the baton to the electric lights. People at the top of their game touch their hands to the endless pool and move on, crossing block by block, out to engage their counterparts in the field of the night.


Below: A Base of Green. The skyscraper is the city’s rocket and the trees are like the flames rolling out at lift-off. Dreams never stand still in the city.

A Base of Greenweb

Below: Silver and Gold. As the sun sets, varieties of tone move across the city’s face. Fortunes migrate with time. Gold is here and gone. Silver spreads and sheds. Darkness knits and takes over –it’s also on its way out.

663ab-- silver and gold on w 50thweb

Below: A Star Among the Rest. The city analogy was obvious: Many people, one star. Once again, I point the camera down in a city that constantly draws our eyes high. This cracking, uneven walking surface is as much New York as the tallest building. Each “standard” piece of tile you see here is unique and was hand-cut, carefully fit and set into place, a long time ago. A star was laid out, gloriously imprecise, concentrated and focused on being a standout.

A Star Among the Restweb

Below: City Family. Away from the tourists, the city family spends time together. Hold mommy’s hands; we’re going to get your hair cut. They walk the streets with a familiarity we Outworlders have for our home towns. Yellow caution light, yellow taxi cab, yellow sunlight on just a regular day for the city family.

City Familyweb

Below: Wishing Well. If I toss a penny, will you grant my wish? If I throw in a few more, will you hear their splash? I have a dime, but I don’t want to patronize you; so accept my quarter and make my wish come true.

000Wishing Well

Below: Welcome. New York is a walking city. One of the benefits of time plus good weather is the chance to walk far. You can cross city block after city block and not have to pay attention to where you are. Free time forgives delays. Free time cedes to silly sights and people-watching and star gazing. When you have time, you don’t need a destination. In fact, walking a city without a specific destination in mind is rare but highly recommended. One such sojourn took me to this yellow gate. It was old, it was ajar, and it opened to an alley where mysterious steps lead underground. Many coats of paint covered the roughly-laid bricks inside. What scenes have those bricks witnessed? What stories could they tell? Let’s step inside the Welcome gate and find out together.


Below: Cyndi’s Eyes. On the night Cyndi Lauper won her Tony Award for Kinky Boots, I was there for the pre-show press at Radio City Music Hall. Unfortunately, I was not a part of the press but stood across the street with the general public and photographed what I could. I took Cyndi’s Eyes across four lanes of active traffic at 6th Avenue. Aiming my camera through fans’ big hair, arms, and then through the bodyguards and  press people, I spent an hour trying to lock the narrow ribbon of focal plane right on Ms. Lauper’s face. Then it happened: The light was right, she gave a wistful look and I got my shot.

Cyndi's Eyesweb


About Ara Hagopian's The LITERATE Show

For over thirty years, I have enjoyed drawing beautiful shapes and writing complementary stories. The imagery tends to focus on our place in the world—whomever or whatever we may be. I am influenced by Twentieth Century history—I read vintage magazines, books and letters. Inspiration comes from visualizing human achievement and personal interaction—derived from people, places and things which may be obscure, but never insignificant. My pen-and-ink THE MAGNIFICENT RECOVERY was selected by the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston for their 2008 summer art auction.
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4 Responses to New York 72 Hours: Street Photography

  1. Nancy says:

    Very impressive Ara! I’m liking it!!!! Happy Birthday – You’re catching up fast!

  2. paul gianes says:

    The photographs are so cool to look at but it is the commentary that brings them alive. wow!

  3. kevin sarney says:

    great eye ….your camera skills are impressive

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