A long time ago, on 7th Avenue.
I’m probably jinxing things here, because it hasn’t been too bad a winter in NY–so far. But man, I used to pray for bad weather. I was living in the city, in the Hotel Beacon, old school, back when the city was broke and the west side of Manhattan was rotting right there along with all the unpicked up garbage. My room cost $210 a month, inc. electric. No air conditioning. Cockroaches big enough to kick ass and take names. My take home pay was $109 a week, as I remember. Things were tight. I was just out of school, and I made noise about it to my mom, about how I didn’t think any job I would get right away could float a NYC apartment. Her response? “Don’t think you’re living here.” I headed for Manhattan.
I worked at the Daily News as a copyboy, and found over time I could submit photos to the newspaper. I couldn’t get an assignment, of course, but what happened on the street was fair game. A daily newspaper like The News always needed weather pictures. Sunny day in the park, torrential rain floods the streets, winter winds blow New Yorkers down the avenue. This I could do. If it was published, I’d get an extra $25 bucks in my paycheck, or, if you look at it this way, a 25% raise for the week. Front page? 100 bucks. High times, big money. Good week. Maybe not McDonalds for an evening or two.
On the odd occasion I got page one, I got a back slap from a couple of the wonderful shooters there who were my mentors, like Danny Farrell, or Jimmy McGrath. I would get the back of the hand from many other veteran shooters on the staff, the ones who outright couldn’t shoot, or were insecure in their skills. That’s a phenomenon I’ve seen repeated to this day. Photogs who are confident, secure about their abilities, help others along and dig it when their pictures get better. Others, not so much. They get scared and bitter, and both their pictures and their personalities wither.
I prayed for rain, snow or sleet. Or sun. Sun so hot a pair of cats took refuge with an ice cream cone.
Or a dog with his tongue out.
Weather pictures. I came in once with a warm weather picture of an enormous lady in a sundress, sitting on a park bench, bending way over to feed the pigeons. Her dress barely contained her boobs, which, when compressed against her knees while she was feeding the flying rats, looked like a pair of seriously explosive air bags. I was prepared to duck. I was working the news desk that night, and Joe Kovach, the editor, started bellowing with laughter. He shouted across the newsroom, “Joe, this isn’t a weather shot! This is a whether or not shot!”
All these years later, bad weather still makes for good pictures. More tk…