MI CASA NO SU CASA...
All in all, the visit was not so cordial as the one three years
earlier, beginning with the attitude-overloaded immigration
"official" with an especially bad day, who didn't for some reason
like his own medicine, and gave yours truly a little bouncin'
around. Fair enough. ;^)
The infamous rudeness called "NYC attitude" seems to never fail to
raise the hair in the back of my neck. Show me a deli with polite
The issue that made the trip a slightly paranoid experience
was not though even the unreal physical grabbing and shoving by
some guy with a horribly screwed-up job on a full gold tooth upper
jaw, while I was photographing the 101 West End Avenue on the first
morning in the city. Not that I'd advocate that The City is more
dangerous than any other, but when someone is minding his/her own
business in clear daylight and is approached by a type who talks
in a totally incomprehensible dialect something about
"Mercedes-Benz" (that's all I made out ;^)), and very nearly hits
with a fist, it's time to take off. It was not even about mugging
for money as he was cordial enough ;^) to go around my standing
tripod without felling it -- with my plastic-covered digicam on
top... Needless to say, after he left, I grabbed the tripod without
dismantling it or the camera and moved from the scene swiftly.
I can only assume that he mistook me for someone else... It was the
only time I've met threats in The City, but it certainly frightened
The Thing I'm talking about was the, at times, almost
incomprehensible NIMBYism (Not In My Backyard) of the corporations
of The City.
It all began with being approached by the "security" at the
Lincoln Center about the use of tripod being not allowed. After
that, the tripod seemed to rise to the status of an eyesore so
frighteningly many times.
The specific permit for the use of a tripod seemed to be the
magical word that in most places was required even in outdoors.
I don't think that the restrictions had so much to do with the
intrusiveness of tripod use in the building plazas, as I think
that few tourist photographers would tote around and use a tripod,
rather than indeed the stated "professional" nature of a tripod.
And I guess that mine was looking professional enough, too
much so for my peace (of mind). Or, on the other hand, I
don't know what they've thought when making those rules...
I can fully understand the no tripods policy in interiors like
Trinity Church -- although at the Riverside Church its use
was allowed (both happened in 1997) -- but when one
gets bullied in an open-air public plaza (however much within
property lines) time after time, one gets the feeling that
there's something a bit askew...
The exceptions and totally "whimsical" interpretations of private
property -- as changing that piece of pavement or floor space
that was originally presented as public to get the development
bonuses, into private property -- got sometimes into farces.
The best one must have been the one on the Solow Building
57th Street plaza (in effect an extension of sidewalk, which,
BTW, was also said to be off-limits for tripod use), where a
guy in an ordinary suit (and caucasian, so he must have been
in the upper levels of building maintenance personnel...)
approached at 5:30 AM and whisked me off a bit condescendinginly
from the totally empty plaza and sidewalk. Fortunately I'd
already taken the pics I needed, but he made it very clear
that the plaza was private and no use of tripod was allowed
and that despite my "early start", I'd been "caught after all".
One wouldn't have believed that the building's developer had
actually got extra development rights from the city for its
"public" plaza(s) -- which don't seem very public after all...
So, if you simply want to have proper results from your archi
photography and maybe bracket exposures etc. by using a (proper)
tripod, then prepare to be called a "professional" who needs
special permits. For these reasons I, in some cases, reverted
for good to the use of my special cord-stabilization of the
The lack of any kind of general rules on photography and
especially use of tripod led eventually to politely asking about
the Tripod Policy of this particular property owner, just
in case. Some allowed, other didn't. Lincoln Center: "permit
required", Columbia University: "sure, go ahead". The word may
be a bit strong in this case, but I have to say that after
innumerable cases of sometimes ridiculous restrictions, in the
end I was close to paranoid and almost jumpy if someone
approached while photographing...
Usually I couldn't blame the security personnel who, however
strange the situation seemed and however smug some were, only
did their job. The Most Obnoxious Piece of W*nk prize must
still go unanimously to the pr*ck of a desk clerk at the
Metropolitan annex at 11 Madison. Someone give my regards to the
moustashioed bodybuilder at the main lobby desk... ;^) You could
have said "no" much more nicely.
As opposed to the corporative representatives, the "commoners"
of The City were very accommodating with my tripod even
during rush-hours and gave no complaint at all. Some even came
to talk and ask things. (The exceptions were a small restaurant
keeper who at 6 AM came to chase away from the sidewalk in front
of his empty shop as I had just set up the tripod for a quick
shot of the MONY, I guess that bringing tourists to the city and
his establishment (even) with this site is OK, as long as it
happens "NIMBY". The other one was a maintenance man who made
me in fact finally lose it with his comment to "stop playing
around" with my gear, although I had thought to be well clear
of his way -- he had definitely his work to do, but just a
moment earlier he was working on the other end of the long
facade, where he abruptly returned as I exploded. I'm afraid he
had to take the burst of my anger of the last few days, but
when I had paid large sums from my own pocket for the trip and
equipment and gone through both physical and mental stresses to
improve a serious web site promoting The City, the last straw
must be being called someone who merely "plays around" for fun.)
© Studios Hergé
In general, the corporations could learn something from the
"It's still 'we, the people' -- right?" like Mr. Mustaine sang
over a decade ago...
If the above seems to have a healthy complement of * words,
that's because even after a couple of weeks the p*ss-off feeling
has still not completely gone -- a feeling not helped the least by
Arsenal FC's loss in the UEFA Cup
Final in Copenhagen during the 24 hr. plane change stop there on
my return flight...