I wrote a piece last year about looking through photographs and here I am writing about the same thing again. I only have one thing to say about it right now and that’s that it takes a long time. Normally when I look through photographs I don’t have a specific idea in mind and I look through them for something that sparks an idea. This time I have a specific idea and since it’s far from what I usually do it’s taking even extra time.

I’ve taken a lot of street photos over the years. On any give trip into NYC I can take four thousand photos. That’s the age of digital photography for you. Set the camera on burst mode and then keep taking pictures. What would cost me four hundred dollars to do with a film camera costs nothing when shooting digital. I easily have tens of thousands of street photos in my “Bryant Park and Street Photos” folder on my hard drive.

Most of my street photos are about casual moments. They’re taken of people on the street from far away who don’t usually know I’m there. I like to try and capture moments in time that are not usually recorded. Quiet moments here and there of people going about their ordinary lives. I often don’t even know what I’m shooting in a conscious way. I’m looking for anything or anyone that catches my eye, composing the shot, taking the burst of photos, and them moving on. It’s a fast moving process and I’m almost never thinking about the shot I just took. I’m thinking about the next one. And thinking might not even be the correct work. It’s more like I’m reacting to what is going on around me.

I’ve ended up with a few unintentional themes over the years as I shoot in and around Bryant Park in Manhattan. Since Bryant Park and the Midtown Library (which is connected to the park) are big tourist destinations there are always people taking photos there. So I’ve taken a lot of photos of people taking photos. A subcategory of “Photos of people taking photos” is one I call “I wonder what his or her selfie looks like?” Those are when I take a photo of someone taking a selfie. There are a lot of people out on the streets of NYC taking selfies.
I also have a couples theme. Couples in the park, sitting, standing, or doing whatever. The park can be a romantic attraction. One final theme is photos of tourists posing for photos. There is a lot of posing going on near the famous Midtown library and their sculptures of lions. They also have a grand building with columns and a great set of steps to take photos on. So I take photos of people posing for their tourist photos.

This time I was looking for none of my usual moments to make finished photos out of. This time I decided I wanted to try and make a photo of NYC in general. Sort of a generic photo any tourist would want to take home with them after a trip to the city. Sounds easy right? At least it sounded easy to me but then I discovered I don’t take many of those types of photos. Almost all of my photos are of people and not places. Photos of NYC are of places.

I remember taking some generic place photos because sometimes I’d find myself in a spot and think “This is an interesting spot” and take a picture. Turns out that thought didn’t occur very often. So far I’ve looked through about 10,000 photos and pulled out a dozen that I though would suit my needs. And none of them jumped out at me.

In order to break the tedium of looking through all those photos I’ve been taking breaks and drawing some faces. My “Drifting and Dreaming” comic needs some drawing done for it so that’s what I’ve been doing. It fits in well with the looking through photos. I only have to draw one face at a time so I can concentrate for a bit on that and then put it down until the next one. It’s easier than working on a big drawing that takes hours of concentration.

I used to draw when I went to Bryant Park. I would take my painting kit with me. A set of pan gouaches, paper to paint on, a container of water, and a paint rag. Bryant Park has a bunch of chairs and tables in it so it was good for painting in. I wasn’t painting the scenery or anything like that. I was painting the same weird paintings that I made at my home studio. I think that’s why I eventually stopped painting at the park at all. I never made a good painting there. Or at least a painting that was in any way distinguishable from the ones I made with much more ease and comfort in my studio. It got to be a bother.

I had been learning how to take street photos at about this time. At first I’d paint a bit and then walk around and take some street photos and then paint some more. After a couple of years the street photos took over and the painting and drawing went back to the studio. After all there was no reason to travel all the way into NYC to do the same thing I was doing at home. Taking street photos was something I couldn’t do at home so it was better to concentrate on that.

That brings us to me ten years later looking through a huge digital pile of those street photos. I’ve looked through them many times before and some stand out in my memory but most don’t.