More Swag Than Times Square
September 17, 2012 9:25 PM   Subscribe

Where can we take the best/most interesting/most creative/most unique picture in NYC?

A group of my friends meet every year for a long weekend of fun(niness). This year we'll be in Manhattan during the last weekend of September.

Here's the thing: our college alum magazine hosts a yearly "Where in the World" competition - and there are prizes for the winners! The goal is to see alumni submit interesting photographs (preferably with other alum) from around the country/world. Our goal is to make the finals this year by submitting an awesomely awesome group picture.

We realize that typical NYC pictures won't cut it and are willing to take it to the next level. Our competition is likely to include some form of mountain climbing, a safari or two, and possibly some ancient ruins (based on last year's entries).

There are four of us (all female). We are in our early thirties, but still quite adventurous.

Help us, MeFites!
posted by WaspEnterprises to Media & Arts (15 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I don't think this is what anyone would describe as swag but I think it would be pretty far up there as the most interesting picture. Watch that documentary about the Mole People who live in the unused old subway/utility tunnels underneath NYC, then go see if they would take a photo with you.
posted by cairdeas at 9:36 PM on September 17, 2012

The correct answer is to get tickets for The Daily Show and somehow force Jon Stewart to look uncomfortable standing next to you (or doing something else amusing). Jon Stewart will always win over mountain climbing and ancient ruins.
posted by bessel functions seem unnecessarily complicated at 10:05 PM on September 17, 2012 [2 favorites]

Good question, and a tough one. First of all, may I give you a global HELL NO on any "snap a fun pic with the homeless" ideas.

Bessel's idea about encounters with interesting people could be a good one, but you know better than we do how competitive that kind of shot would be in the photo contest (relative to the interesting-location entries).

As for really unique locations, it's not as easy as you might guess. I've been subjected to a few photo shoots for events where the photographer's goal was to get something Edgy and Unusual (I'm a musician), and those varied a lot in terms of how successful they were. Cops are extremely aware of groups of people trying to get into areas that aren't meant for public access. Many people do that kind of urban exploring, and some document it online -- but it takes practice, expertise, native-level NYC awareness, and of course willingness to get arrested for trespassing and whatever else the cops can muster.

One thought: there are plenty of open mics that give a several-minute slot to all comers. Could your group put together something really fabulous/crazy visually, and get shots of yourselves performing it onstage in NYC?
posted by kalapierson at 11:23 PM on September 17, 2012

Jean-Michel Basquiat and Leonard Bernstein are buried in Brooklyn's Greenwood Cemetery.

Alexander Hamilton is buried in the cemetery at Trinity Church (though those graves are all pretty decrepit - might be hard to get a good photo op).

Harry Houdini is buried in Machpelah Cemetery in Queens.

Irving Berlin, Nellie Bly, Miles Davis, Duke Ellington, Herman Melville, and Elizabeth Cady Stanton are buried in Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx.

A lot of the famous mafia guys are buried at St. John's, also in Queens, though I'd imagine they don't have their mafia nicknames on their graves.

Clearly just a group photo next to one of these wouldn't get you finalist status, but if you could come up with an interesting way of staging it, maybe? Bonus points for any of those folks who might be associated with your school in some way. The wikipedia entries for each of those cemeteries have more notable burials, if someone important in New York Society (Roosevelts, Vanderbilts, and the like) or local politics was important to your school somehow.
posted by Sara C. at 11:48 PM on September 17, 2012

There are also lots of fountains you can jump into without attracting the attention of the police. Google "central park fountains" for some good ideas to start with.

I've heard that the fountain from the Friends intro was entirely art directed and isn't really in Central Park, but it's worth a try.

Coney Island is very photogenic, but I don't know if any of the landmarks translate outside NYC culture.

Which brings up a relevant point. Where is your school, and where is the bar set in terms of these photos? I mean, people climb mountains and visit ancient ruins all the time.

If you went to school in the Northeast, you're going to need a really exciting photo, because a lot of alums will be from the New York area or at least have visited. In that case, I'd start calling in favors. Do you know a curator at the Guggenheim who'd let you rollerskate in the galleries? A relative of a former mayor or other celebrity associated with the city? A city official who can get you access to a bridge or a building that's normally closed to the public?

If you guys are from Southern Montana State or something, a lot of relatively ordinary New York photos might seem really exciting to the editors of your alumni magazine. For example, there are a few nightclubs with fantastic rooftop views of the Empire State Building.

On the other hand, if your school is near New York, you probably have a lot more leeway in terms of local landmarks that people far away don't know about. I've always wanted a photo on the back of one of the New York Public Library's lions, for example.
posted by Sara C. at 12:09 AM on September 18, 2012 [1 favorite]

Jean-Michel Basquiat and Leonard Bernstein are buried in Brooklyn's Greenwood Cemetery.

Bill the Butcher and Boss Tweed are buried there as well.
posted by Sticherbeast at 3:44 AM on September 18, 2012

Take a picture at the UN building, only from the side. It's an angle no one ever shoots.
posted by Obscure Reference at 5:04 AM on September 18, 2012

Long exposure at Grand Central Terminal during rush hour, where you guys stand still, and everybody else is running around? Possibly with you dressed up really fancy.
posted by kathryn at 8:59 AM on September 18, 2012 [1 favorite]

Ambitious, but how about taking a pic inside every subway station in Manhattan. Put them together as a single image, but doing something unique in each one to create a cohesive or absurd idea.
posted by sub-culture at 3:48 PM on September 18, 2012

I recommend getting a Polester Paparazz so you can get odd angles from above. There's 3D cameras now at reasonable prices so you could be different that way.
Cloisters has the annual medieval faire on Sept 30
Governor's Island is open that weekend, and the Maker Faire is also that weekend at the Queens Science Center ('64 worlds fairgrounds)
Check out Open House New York for some other unusual places. Roosevelt Island also has nice Manhattan views.
posted by anon4now at 5:14 PM on September 18, 2012 [2 favorites]

Anon4now makes a good point -- the classic shot in front of the Worlds Fair globe fountain would be a good idea.

I have a couple good ideas for how you could make this a little more than just "group of girlfriends poses in front of random public art".

1. Find some alumni from your school who attended the fair in '64 and have their own photo from that spot. Take an updated version, getting as close as possible to what their photo looked like.

2. Find some alumni from the class of '64 who still live in New York and pose with them!

3. Track down dozens of photos of alums from you school who have versions of that same snapshot.

Granted, this would work better if you went to school on the east coast. But then, if you went to college too far away, nobody is even going to know what the Worlds Fair Globe is unless they're huge fans of the Men In Black movies.
posted by Sara C. at 5:24 PM on September 18, 2012

This is such a fun question, but I am having a difficult time deciding what advice I should give.

We realize that typical NYC pictures won't cut it and are willing to take it to the next level.

I think more information would be helpful about what this means.

Do you want to have your photo taken in a location that would be very difficult for the average person visiting NYC to arrange? Something like Water Tunnel 3? An abandoned Subway station?
posted by mlis at 5:40 PM on September 18, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: These are fabulous suggestions!

Mlis is completely on track by clarifying that we'd love to have a photo that would be difficult for the average person to arrange.
posted by WaspEnterprises at 6:11 PM on September 18, 2012

In that case, your best bet is to get together and have a brainstorming session about everyone that any of you might know who lives in New York, is from New York, or has a connection to the city. Typically things like what you want are difficult for the average person to arrange because they don't know the right people. If you don't know the right people, either, you will also not be able to arrange them.

Get in front of a big white board or a huge sheet of blank paper and just let flow. Bring phones/laptops for scouring facebook, too. Leave no stone unturned.

That said, if none of you knows anyone who could be helpful, you could start with the Obscura Society.
posted by Sara C. at 7:15 PM on September 18, 2012 [1 favorite]

Discovering Columbus will be happening then. It's a temporary living room with complete with a sofa, TV set, coffee table, and lamps. But built 6 stories above the ground, surrounding the Christopher Columbus statue at Columbus Circle, against the backdrop of Manhattan. Tickets are free.

The MTA Museum gives regular tours of the old City Hall station, but the tours are members-only and already sold out for the 29th of September (they sell out weeks beforehand).

Unfortunately, the giant Statue of Liberty head (a la Planet of the Apes) on Governor's Island closes Sept 23. I don't think there's anything really that amazing on Governor's Island to take a photo in front of.

Also Open House New York is the following weekend, and they are opening up the old TWA Terminal! Too bad the timing is off. Otherwise, the best OHNY places are reservations only, and usually reservations have a max of 2 people per party. Any way you guys can change your travel dates to be during OHNY?
posted by kathryn at 8:12 PM on September 18, 2012 [2 favorites]

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