A world without the arts
The day the music, and movies, and play, and exhibits died.
The pandemic took a lot of things away from us. Visits with family, in-person schooling, vacations, and holidays. But the thing that is often over looked is how the pandemic took the arts from us, and the effect that it had on our society.
I was surrounded by the arts prior to the pandemic. I frequented comedy show, both as a patron and a performer, and occasionally as a photographer. The great thing about comedy is that everyone looks the same when they are laughing. For those brief moments when we all laugh together, everything that makes us different takes a back seat to feeling good.
I had countless museums and galleries that I could visit and learn from. Museums always felt like a giant pair of noise cancelling headphones to me. You forget what city you are in and get surrounded by the slower and more understated pace of the environment.
Now think about what we were left with. Anger and vitriol took over. No one was laughing together at a comedy show, or collectively tapping their toes to the beat of the same song at a concert. There was no longer that escape from the everyday world. Nothing that put us on an even playing field. People followed the chants and slogans and speeches of political rhetoric. For some, violent protesting was an unhealthy outlet. It was the antithesis of creativity. People forgot what it was like to appreciate the creation of something. They instead witnessed, or partook in the destruction of things. This blog post is dedicated to all the talent that was silenced during the pandemic.
Washington Square Park, New York, NY 2017
Live music is something that we all missed and appreciate. Concerts, broadway shows, and even street performers were silenced.
New York City moves to a rhythm. Literally. Street performers are a staple of life in New York. They’re what entertains us as we walk through a busy subway station. They help us relax on a summer day in the park, or they’re the sound of a saxophone that travels through our window at night as it helps us wind down.
I started documenting street performers about seven years ago. Times Square seemed like a good place to start, but that quickly changed when it was overrun by costumed characters shaking down unsuspecting tourists for photo op tips. Luckily you don’t have to look far to find talent in New York. Washington Square Park in Greenwich Village is arguably the best place in the city for photography. Its collection of personalities makes it a mecca for street photography, and there is almost always street performers entertaining the park goers.
Mask-less walks through the park during a summer day is something that I miss during the pandemic. Meeting strangers and getting stuck in crowds watching a performance seems like ancient history.
Washington Square Park, New York, NY 2019
Theater District, New York, NY 2015
A street photographer’s best friend
If you’re new to an area and you’re interested in doing street photography, follow the sounds of the music. I learned this during a trip to Amsterdam in 2019. I was looking forward to documenting the streets of Amsterdam, but I had no idea where to start. Then I heard the music. It lead me down the street to Dam Square, where there were musicians, artists, and dancers all sharing a common space. And with all that talent, came crowds of people to photograph. The performances had the same affect on the people of Amsterdam that they did on the people of New York. Everyone stopped for a moment, forgot who they were, where they were, and focused on something bigger than themselves. Creativity and passion for something positive. Something healthy.
This experience was replaced with virtual concerts, virtual comedy shows, and virtual table reads during covid. While I admire the spirit of keeping creativity alive during tough times, the lack of human interaction does little for both the artist and the viewer.
Dam Square, Amsterdam, NL 2019
Dam Square, Amsterdam, NL 2019
Open for business
God willing, the pandemic will come to a close soon. I’m anticipating the day that I can travel again. The day that I can see things, meet people and create photos around the world. Most importantly, I’m looking forward to doing it in a world full of creative culture. A world focused less on our differences and more on what makes us so similar. As things start opening up again, hopefully our minds will too.