Saturday, December 13, 2008

Untitled Dec 12,2008

Geographically, Manhattan is small enough to travel from one extreme point to another within an hour via the subway system. Socially, it appeared the same. I was on two assignments for a magazine within a few hours, and the contrast of the two just could not go away.

The first assignment was to assist a photographer who was shooting a magazine cover in a feverishly popular kids store, American Girl Place, on the 49th street and the 5th Ave. It was hardly to make any connection to the ongoing recession in the reality to the store that was filled with the crowd, the pinky color, the shiny stuff on the shelves, kids’ screams and overwhelming make-up on the little girls’ face. The photo shooting was taken in a boutique café within the store. The café appeared perfect in this context with the clean white tablecloth, huge framed mirrors on the wall and many other colorful decorations. Apart from the apparent fancy food and English tea ware on the tables, there is at least one doll sitting beside the kids. With a specially designed pinky chair attached to the edge of the table, the doll could sit in it. In front of every doll, there is a set of tea ware as well. The families were singing the birthday song to greet the little girls here and there in the café. No exception, the girls dressed like princesses; no exception, after the song, father started talking finance with the other guys on the table and mother started showing the just taken pictures of the princess on the back screen of the digital camera to the girls with the scream of “Wow, how cute!”. Again, no exception, the girls didn’t express interests as same as the dolls.

An hours after, I was in a charter school in Harlem with a reporter. While the reporter was interviewing Ms. Eva Moskowitz, the CEO of the school and a former Chair of the City Council Education Committee, I was taking the pictures of her. The school was quite and very bright, not one candle light dimmer than the fifth avenue store. The kids decorated the corridors and the classroom with the original art works they did. As Ms. Moskowitz was passionately talking to the reporter about her perspective and outlook to the education for the future, a yell of “Oh, my God” stopped her conversation. A kid dropped her textbooks on the floor and other kids screamed. Ms. Moskowitz rushed into the classroom and gave a lesson to these 3rd grade kids to remind them that the corridor is No Noise Zone and rule of No Scream when the fellow classmate encounters problem. Following her, we quietly walked into a classroom of the first grade. The teacher was teaching the group of student to play chess. The kids were very much into it. I was talking to myself very quietly “Wow, how cute!”

The street scenes in Harlem made no mistake about the season – it is winter, it is cold. As I raised my camera, the kids approached and jumped in the frame. To me, it was so natural. I am sure they were interested in seeing the pictures because it is themselves.