A Visual Feast: The 36th Annual New York Village Halloween Parade
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As I exit the W4th subway station onto 6th Avenue, I try to remember another time in my life where I was swept along by crowd of people shuffling in chaotic streams transformed into a surging and seething organism, reminiscent of an amoeba with its streaming protoplasm and pseudopods. This night is alive. I can see nothing above me but the canopy of umbrellas, hear nothing but a murmur of those around me ,and feel nothing but the costumed revelers soaked through by the torrential downpour pressed against me, and carrying me forth. Only set break at a Phish concert comes to mind, including some similarities in the costumes. All of this was just to get from the subway station to an entry point for the 36th Annual New York’s Village Halloween Parade. The parade has begun and there’s no time to pick up my media credentials.
The crowds lining the parade route are least five people deep, each one looking to interact with the next great costume in the world largest participatory parade. The nearly constant deluge does not slow the marchers or the other revelers down, but seems to do the opposite, with cheers erupting from the crowd every time the rain increases its force, and the drumbeats get stronger to match! Driven by the energy of the crowed, the rain doesn’t slow me down either. While many might sit this weather out, I disregard the dangers to my too-expensive equipment and plunge full force into the rain, thrilled at the prospect of capturing the unique photos that only the rain can create. My trusty Canon 40D camera with Canon 580 EX II flash, is wrapped in two Op/Tech Rainsleeves, which really saved the day. And my perseverance was thoroughly rewarded with thousands of backlit raindrops filling the frame and beautiful reflections of parade lights in the street. Thankfully, the camera appears to have survived to shoot another day!
Alfred Eisenstadt’s iconic image, The Kiss (originally published in Life Magazine), and Steve Simon’s amazing redux from the Millennium in Times Square, but with a decidedly Greenwich Village twist! Wow did these guys practice their swoon!
For the second night in a row, I’m photographing Brazilian Carnaval-style dancers, only the dancers at El Museo del Barrio’s Dia de los Muertos event did not have Five O’Clock shadows of stubble! The sounds of a bullwhip cracking against the pavement catches my attention, and I witness the bizarre spectacle of a Lara Croft, bull whip in hand, chasing a mischievous rabbit who is obviously late for a very important date: getting the hell away from the crazy lady with the bull whip. Who can forget the bulldog with a baseball cap? And the hula-hooped woman battling Friday the 13th’s Jason?
Some favorite aspect of the parade, are the moments where the marchers interact with the children in the crowds, through high fives or shrill and surprising shrieks, including characters from Tim Burton’s The Night Before Christmas or zombies, of the man with a tiny gold mask who drove his motorized wheelchair along the crowded and occasionally stopping simply to stare. Or the zombie, complete with misaligned zombie eyes just stands by the crowed and stares ‘zombily’ out into it.
I know when someone is ‘too short to be a Stormtrooper’ (and there were more than a few pounding the pavement during the parade), and am thrilled to see the group of Jedi marchers with their glowing light sabers. I line up in front of the Jedi group to grab a shot of their sabers spinning and flailing, only to be disappointed at watching the group spend all of this time scowling at other marchers in their midst. I scramble to get out of their way, but not before grabbing a shot of the Jedi leader’s best Jedi death stare, along with some cool and colorful light saber images. When the Jedi are able to clear the non-Jedi marchers, the Jedi show us why they had spent so much time clearing us: they raise the sabers and shout “Jedi” before exiting the parade. It’s as lame as it sounds. My interference with the Jedi order, however, did not go unnoticed as I was soon thereafter accosted by a police officer and told to get off the parade route. Without having picked up my media credentials, there was no argument to be had. And I sure did not want to be taken off the way I had seen another woman get taken off: by six officers and a pair of wrist cuffs. Maybe getting tossed was for the best.
It’s the juxtaposition of the bizarre Halloween characters and regular NYC places and situations that I appreciate most about Halloween in NYC. The event is completely transformative of the people around the city, particularly their appearance, and I love to see these crazy creatures against the same old surroundings. I like photographing people taking pictures of other people; but I love photographing a chicken taking a photograph other people. I love to see costume heads popping up in the back seat of taxis, or talking on pay phones - for that matter, anyone on a payphone is a rarity these days (and yes, some of them still work).
On the F train I find Stewie Griffin lewdly resting his hand on Brian’s inner thigh and in the Times Square subway station where I find a very convincing papal figure (only the absence of Prada slippers belies this imposter). An impatient woman covered in makeup and a white shroud leans over the subway tracks to watch for the train. A man delicately kisses a woman on the subway, the Superman peering thought his coat. A man has whose costume is so obese, he must have inflated it after entering the subway station because there is no other way to get that through the turnstiles!
Finally, the night has taken its toll on revelers, especially the costumed children young and their worn-out parents, who sleep anywhere they can, even the subway. Each Greenwich Village NYC parade will be a unique and amazing mélange of public creativity and revelry, and one of the most colorful events I’ve ever photographed. This was my first, and I can’t wait til next year!
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