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New York, New York, It’s a Wonderful Town

I photograph for nonprofit, corporate, business, and editorial clients. But it should be no surprise to anyone who knows me that I also photograph for fun. And since I live in NYC, there’s a lot of fun to photograph. Redfin, the real estate site, recently reached out to me and other local photographers for suggestions of interesting places we like to photograph. (You can find a more concise version of this, along with all the others’ suggestions, here. and the first place I thought of is this:

Graffiti in Freeman Alley in New York's Bowery.
Freeman Alley, the Bowery, New York City. A tuxedoed and top-hatted figure on a door, flanked by hundreds of tags on one side, and large spray painted graphic tags on the other.

Freeman Alley, in the Bowery, is one of the few spots in the city where graffiti is not just allowed, but encouraged: spray paint, wheatpaste posters, tags, all are there, all ever-changing. (If you’re hoping to see the art in this image, I can tell you that it’s no longer there, having been replaced by something new.) You never know what will cover over existing art. Anyone can contribute, and does, from local street artists to internationally known artists. 

The second thing I thought of is a little-known sport, and it’s played right in Bryant Park.

Playing pétanque in Bryant Park
Playing pétanque in Bryant Park.

That sport is pétanque, which originated in the south of France, and which is related to bocce. You can see it on the West side of Bryant Park (except when the holiday market takes over the space). The local club is “La Boule New Yorkaise,” which translates loosely to New York Ball Club.

The game is not complicated. A small “jack” (cochonnet, in French) is thrown, and the team whose steel balls (boules) are closest to the jack in the end wins the round. The throw is underhand, and you may of course try to knock your opponent’s boule out of place. Fun to watch, fun to listen to the French-speaking players, fun to photograph.

The first time I saw the game played was in Saint-Jean-du-Gard in the south of France, where it was played in a public park without a defined court. The courts in Bryant Park are defined and bordered. Check it out, watch the technique, and bring a camera.