A week before the election, I scheduled a day off for November 9th, in anticipation of shooting the "Point and Laugh at the Trump Tower" event on Facebook. With over 10,000 RSVPs, I figured it would be a good event to photograph, given this bizarre, 18-month-long, trash can fire of an election season. Instead, as we all know, everything flipped on Election Night. My day off turned into documenting the immediate aftermath of Trump's victory. I boarded the R at 77th Street and immediately witnessed the psychological distress that would define the day. People openly wept on the train, holding their faces in their hands, hinting at what I was in for.
My first stop was the New Yorker hotel on 34th street and 8th Avenue, where Clinton was giving her concession speech that morning. At 8th Avenue, I encountered a mess: police, fire trucks, Secret Service, metal barriers, protesters, supporters, cameramen, anchors, spectators. The mood was tense and somber. People yelled protest slogans as a row of anchors and their cameramen chattered away in different languages, the events going on inside the hotel. Scaffolding surrounding the building made it difficult to shoot. Everyone was squeezed together on the sidewalk, passersby, PA's holding camera equipment, and myself.
I briefly met a friend, press photographer Albin Lohr-Jones. We talked about the election, fielding theories on how the Cheese Doodle won, with most sentences trailing off into, "I can't believe it..." After Clinton's speech concluded, she was swiftly escorted into one of 10 SUVs waiting in front of the hotel and driven away. The crowd exploded upon her exit. Chants of "I'M WITH HER" enveloped the street. By this time, the rain let up, and I began making my way towards the Trump Tower.
I dislike shooting protests. I find them boring, repetitive, and "easy." Every photographer aims for the loudest protesters, resulting in little variation among the photos. I did what I could to frame my shots intelligently and interestingly. I won't know if that counted for anything until I develop and scan my negatives (maybe by Thanksgiving?).
I proceeded to the Trump Tower. Chaos. Take the same scene outside the New Yorker hotel and add more people, anger, hate, clueless tourists, and the NYPD. They closed the east side of 5th Avenue, where the Trump Tower sits. Garbage trucks and several SUVs were packed on the sidewalk and in front of the building. Instead, the crowds gathered on the across 5th Avenue. The sidewalk was divided into three sections: a cage for protestors, supporters, and a larger one for the media.
Supporters hurled their praise for Trump at everyone the sidewalk, inciting pro-Clinton shouting, which quickly turned into 10-strong shouting matches along multiple spots on the sidewalk. Protestors were verbally attacked by supporters. "You're un-American! Why don't you leave if you don't like it? You should be arrested, beaten, and tortured."
Meanwhile, European tourists pushed their way through the masses, stopping in the middle of the block for their selfie opportunity with the gold TRUMP TOWER sign in the background, before laughing and continuing their vacation. It reached the point where the NYPD repeatedly instructed us to, "take your photo and keep walking." People were more concerned with their selfie than with what was going on.
Again, I tried to photograph the mess, avoiding obvious shots, illustrating the insanity contained on one city block.
On 56th or 55th street, a young girl in torn jeans and a bra was patiently trying (and failing) to rip an American flag and light it, drawing more jeers, insults and calls for her arrest from the crowd. The police placed her in a 8' x 8' box near the sidewalk. Everyone watched.
Two hours later, I couldn't take it. The sun was beginning to set and I was more than disgusted with the day's events.
Last month, I started noticing strange light leaks on my Leica M2 negatives. At first, they appeared two or three times per roll, but they quickly took over half of each roll. Two bursts of light: one in the middle and the other to the right. I checked the M2's first set of cloth curtains, saw no leak, and continued shooting. However, after developing the next batch of film two weeks later, the leaks continued to appear. I checked the second set of curtains (after the shutter is cocked) and I quickly saw the pinholes.
I can't figure out how the holes formed. Granted, I'm using a 56-year-old camera, but I thought I was careful. Leicas (and other cloth shutter rangefinders) have a BIG weakness: if you point them at the sun, the lens acts as a magnifying glass and burns holes into the cloth underneath. Unlike SLRs, rangefinders don't have a mirror between the cloth shutter and the lens, losing that level of shutter protection
Repairing Leicas is expensive; I needed a DIY solution. After poking around the Internet, I discovered that Liquid Tape can be used to seal the pinholes, creating a lightproof layer. Two coats of Liquid Tape and 24 hours later, my camera was back to normal.
I switched to my Nikon FM3a while waiting for the Liquid Tape to arrive. I had no idea I would be so uncomfortable on that camera. I'm not new to Nikon SLRs. My first camera was a Nikon FE, used for years before my M2.
The Nikon is loud and clunky, yet practical due to its cushy features (detailed viewfinder, ISO dial, exposure comp. automatic setting). The M2 is discreet, agile, and annoyingly utilitarian.
Walking through Little Italy during the Feast of San Gennaro, I was shocked at how unproductive I was. My eyes constantly scanned the edges of the viewfinder, checking to see what was in frame, something I never do on my M2. This slowed me down considerably.
Whenever I managed to take a photograph, the shutter was so loud that my subjects were instantly alerted to my presence, spoiling the moment and any further chance of capturing it. If I didn't get the photo that first time, the camera killed any chance of a second or third shot. Last, none of my Nikon lens had useful DOF scales, making zone focusing impossible.
I couldn't wait to get my M2 back. The FM3a isn't a bad camera. Feature-wise, it blows any Leica out of the water. The viewfinder lets you see exactly what's in the shot, you can sample the depth-of-field beforehand, it can function 100% electrically or mechanically, and more.
The key is to utilize the SLR in a way that makes use of its strengths. For street, I need a quick, quiet setup that lets me view the photo undistracted. The M2 fills that gap. For macro photos, shots that require a zoom lens, and for night photography, hand me the FM3a any day.