Last month I had the honor of being a part of "Behind the Lens: A Conversation with Photographers Rubén Saldago Escudar, Mark Fulinara, and Ira Block" at Sony Square in New York City. 'Pics or it didn't happen, you say?' Well...
In the latest edition of "Craziest year ever," I was flown to NYC to talk about photography and my experience as a winner of a Sony World Photography award. So right after a trip to Austin to celebrate my 4th year anniversary with my wife, I hopped on a plane to the big apple to give a 'lecture' at Sony Square NYC.
I immediately wanted to case the joint. The day before the big day, I walked over to Sony Square to get a visual of where it was all happening. I mapped out imaginary escape routes that led to getaway cars in case my presentation didn't go well. I thought about where best to point off into the distance, so the event photographers could snap a photo of me looking like a visionary in case it did go well. I snapped a photo of my photo in their photo gallery... Photo.
Since I had the big thing going on the next day, I told myself to keep it low key for a day and then party after the presentation. So no food challenge level pig outs, no getting wasted, no staying up late. Instead, I had a few of special missions built in for myself between my multiple hour-long showers I like to take throughout a day whenever I have the luxury of doing so. Just run a few errands and focus on the presentation.
I went to B&H to take a class on studio lighting, but while invite said it started at 1pm PST, it actually at 1pm EST. I guess 3 hours late is a no-no in the industry.
I wanted to train. There are a bunch of famous boxing and muay thai gyms in the area, but I wanted to train in the more esoteric, boxing-based, jailhouse born martial art style the "52 Blocks." Despite a few texts back and forth with a local expert, we couldn't coordinate our schedules, so the mysterious art of the 52 Blocks eluded me. Maybe next time I'll learn a little bit of that Jailhouse Rock.
My wife had been to NYC a couple of weeks before my trip, so she left a present hidden for me in the city. She gave me the cross streets and clues to where it was. When I got there, the present, a letter left behind a placard in a park, had vanished. The placard stated that the park was maintained by the Union Square Business Improvement District. So... good job Union Square Business Improvement District on your fine work at maintaining your parks and keeping them free of litter and loveletters?
The next day, I went on another mission for my wife. She lost a leg warmer after a ballet class and wanted a replacement. To be sure I bought the right replacement, I had the one leg warmer with me and took a trip down to Repetto in soho. I'm sure I won the award for creepiest customer of the day, walking in with a single leg warmer for "my wife" because she "lost one" and I am certainly not a "pervert."
As I traveled around town I made a game of trying to memorize every subway line and walking route I needed ahead of time so I could pretend I was a local. One lady approached me and asked for help getting to Broadway, which I confidently pointed her towards. It was one of the two streets I knew at the time. New Yorkers impress me. They all seem to have somewhere to go and don't need to take the time to appreciate their surroundings. They walk out of a subway stop and immediately hook their left or right without having to look up at street signs to get their bearing. They navigate the city with a certain blind ease; like a person woken up in the middle of the night navigating their way to the bathroom in complete darkness to pee.
On subway platforms I could hear conversations overhead. I just love the anonymity of being in a city that just does not give a shit about you.
The presentation approached. Like a day before a gig with my band, I felt like I was in a haze leading up to it. Not nervous. Not excited. Just in a general fog.
The event was super fun. Got to meet lots of enthusiastic photographers and reconnected with a few people I met during the Sony Awards show in London. I'm super comfortable with public speaking so that went well I think. The only regret I have is that during the Q&A one guys asked me why I made my photo black and white, and I said, "I just felt like it." When the actual answer if I had my wits about me would have been, "I'm a huge fan of classic boxing photography, in particular old photos of Muhammad Ali. So, I was trying to go for that low-contrast black and white look." I hope he reads this.
At the end of the presentation, I was ready to get TURNT-- but forgot that it was a Tuesday night and everyone had to go home. Luckily, a very cool young man named Stanley introduced himself to me as an up and coming photographer. I mentioned that I had been to New York a couple of times before but still had never been to Times Square. He thought that was a travesty, so we hit the streets and did an impromptu photo walk where I packed in as much touristy New York shit as I could into one night.
Our first stop was a recommendation from the Editor In Chief of Popular Photography. She said I HAD to check out Jimmy's Corner, owned by former pro boxer Jimmy Glenn. I was pumped to check out all the memorabilia, and while I scooted around an old man to take a look at a photo of Jimmy Glenn I realized that the man I was hovering over was none other than the owner himself, Jimmy Glenn! We chatted a little bit about what weight he used to fight at, and how I used to have boxing pipe dreams.
Later that night, while I was pontificating as I often do (this time about photography and girl advice), Jimmy Glenn was leaving the bar he walked past me and gave me a little tap on my chin with his fist. KO. We left and took some photos of Times Square where I hammed it up for the camera, then grabbed a couple of slices of crazy cheap pizza. I'm really glad that I didn't let the night get away from me without doing something cool.