Tag Archives: Street Performers

Chinese New Year: Little Sheep

Little Sheep
Little Sheep

Unlike the Western Zodiac which depicts different celestial groups as representation of periods within a year, the Chinese Zodiac, instead, represents a different animal every year.   There are twelve animals which make up the Chinese Zodiac. And, this year, in February,  the Chinese community of Chinatown, NY came together to celebrate the year of the sheep. True to my nomadic personality, I was present to participate. I worked to capture the thrill and excitement of the crowds  and the performers. However, there was one shot I took which I thought was less about the excitement and more about enjoying the simpler things of the moment — little sheep.

During a brief pause of the parade, one of the celebratory helium balloons escaped into the air and floated upwards into the stratosphere. One of the young girls who was parading the streets, dressed as a little sheep, glanced upwards. At that very moment, I snapped the shot forever capturing that small slice of time which may seem trivial to most given that it was just a balloon; But it meant a lot to this little girl since it captured her attention completely.

For me, what the image represents is not the festival but the little things that we tend to ignore or forget because we get wrapped up in the bigger things. Everyone else was entertaining themselves by shooting confetti, or taking snap shots of the dragon dancers further down the line. But, this little girl was mesmerized by the flight of the balloon and for the three minutes the balloon was in view,  her attention was completely devoted to it.

I think that as adults we get too wrapped up in the bigger things, the explosions, the colour, the light, etc. We fail sometimes to take pleasure in the smaller things. However, thanks to that little sheep, I was reminded of the little, yet simple pleasures that I miss and how much more entertaining they can be.

Dances With Lions

Lion Dancer
Lion Dancer

No, this is not an introduction to a Kevin Kostner film about the Native American Indian experience. This is a photograph of the Asian American experience – Dances With Lions.

Last week Sunday, when I visited the egg cream/egg roll festival in Chinatown. I got exposed to cultural practices from both the Jewish and Chinese American communities. It was an exposure of music, food and religious practices. On Eldridge Street, the stalls were lined with pickles on one end and dumplings on the other. There were outdoor musical scores being played, first by the Chinese community and then later by the Jewish community accompanied by traditional dance.  However, the music that caught my attention was further away at a nearby park just of Canal Street.

I could not ignore the beating of the drum nor the beating of the cymbals. So with much curiousity, I made my way to the park where I observed a traditional Chinese Lion Dance being performed. It was just the sort of outdoor experience I was hoping for. I had always seen puppet shows performed on a small scale; This was the first I had seen it on a grand scale. Everything was well choreographed, the movement of the mouth, the winking of the eye, the synchronized movement of the legs. It was all well done. It was all accompanied by traditional Chinese music.

To some degree, I felt sorry for the performers.  It was 81 degree weather and it was sweltering. Consequently, the performers  could only do two performances with the costume on and it was later followed by uncovered performances. But, it was the covered performance which resulted in the photograph taken here.

As stated before, this was not a review of the movie Dances with Wolves. It is a post which was inspired by the merger of the Jewish and Chinese communities’  egg cream/egg roll festival. Although it was the egg cream/egg roll festival that attracted me to the city, it was the Dances with Lions which stole the show.

 

Weeping Clown

Weeping Clown
Weeping Clown

On the same day I visited New York City and caught sight of the Naked Cowgirl, I also took notice of another odd character in the Times Square area. It was part Easter Bunny,  part clown and part man. So confusing was this character that I had no definitive way to describe him or it. In fact, it wasn’t until I caught him with the most depressed expression I had ever seen on a street performer that I chose to dub him the weeping clown.

At first glance, I thought he was one of the usual street performers dressed up as an Easter Bunny. After all, he head two protrusions jotting out of his head like bunny ears, a completely white costume, and although it is not apparent in my photo, a fuzzy, white, fluffy tail. To top of the illusion of a 5′ 6″ rabbit, he walked around with a 12 inch carrot in his hand. So, this was a bunny rabbit, right?  Well it got a little more confusing.

The costume was accentuated with a bright orange brief case which read – Clown ToTo. It wasn’t clear what the contents of the brief case was but it was kind of odd to have an Easter Bunny walking around with a briefcase. Further, under closer scrutiny, I realized that the protrusions on his head were merely balloons being masqueraded as ears.  Also, another unique characteristic of his costume was his shoes. They were the type only seen on cartoon characters due to their enormous size.  Oh and less I forget, there was also facial paint which was used to decorate the face.  Ok, so we now have several elements which suggest this was indeed a clown.

The last observation of this character was the expression.  The face of someone who has had a classical bad day and who’s expression only adds to the comical view of this character. An image that you can’t help but laugh at.

All together, there is no singular term which correctly describes this character. I myself may be wrong in  the description I have settled on. Is he a clown, an Easter Bunny, a man? Whichever one of these correctly describe him, I have chosen to refer to him as the weeping clown.

Naked Cowgirl

Naked Cowgirl
Naked Cowgirl

One of the most interesting franchises I have ever heard of is that of the Naked Cowboy. The term Naked Cowboy is trademarked by Robert Burck. However, he licenses the name to persons who wish to make  use of the brand.  A search on the internet  for a Naked Cowboy in Times Square will only reveal one, Mr. Burk, as he has defended his trademark fervently.  But, a similar search for a Naked Cowgirl on the other hand results in numerous results. This post is about the other half of the Naked Cowboy franchise, the Naked Cowgirl.

By no means is the Naked Cowgirl depicted in my photo the original.  The title of original Naked Cowgirl goes to Cindy Fox, who is a professional fitness trainer. But ever since the advent of the Naked Cowgirl, there have been several licensed  and unlicensed Naked Cowgirls. The one depicted in this post is one of the licensed ones, Alex.

I took this photograph on a previous visit to Times Square  and caught her while she was entertaining on the corner of 43rd St and 7th Avenue.  For those who are unfamiliar with this area of Manhattan, it is more commonly referred to as Midtown. It is one of the busiest sections in New York City frequented by tourists, street performers and native New Yorkers alike.

Along with her counterpart, the Naked Cowboy, she often welcomes visitors and takes group shots with those wishing to get a memento of their encounter with her. In my experience, the nature of the shots can range from  a basic friendly encounter to being a bit provocative. Of course, for every group shot taken there is also the expectation of a tip but It is all in good fun and worth the time. Further, unlike other entertainers and guides who work the Times Square area there is never the feel of being hustled into taking a group photograph – taking a photography of any one of the naked representatives is free.

Although there has only ever been one Naked Cowboy, the Naked Cowgirl, the counterpart to the Naked Cowboy franchise, has had numerous representatives.  And,  it is hard to visit New York City and not bounce into either one of the naked representatives. Given that Naked Cowgirl is just as much a staple of the  New York City experience, I would recommend paying her a visit on your next trip and taking a group shot if you are up for it. But, if you do, remember, do tip generously.

Chicago Girl

Chicago Girl
Chicago Girl

Taking advantage of the nearly Spring like conditions present on Sunday I ventured into Midtown, Manhattan.  My goal was to visit the ICP – International Centre of Photography. But, I also decided to enjoy the day and explore the general area. It was through my exploration I came across the Chicago Girl.  Allow me now to digress and explain how I encountered her.

After taking time to visually digest the numerous photographs and journals of Robert Cappa on display at the ICP, I took the time to walk about and enjoy the ever hectic pace of the city, NY City.  I  chose to wonder about feeling confident in the fact that wherever I ended up, my smart phone would help me get out of it again –  provided it had sufficient power.  Five minutes later, after a pleasant stroll following the crowds of people walking about and making their way through the city, I landed in Times Square.  Or rather, Times Square landed on me. It never ceases to amaze me how much activity occurs at that one spot in Manhattan.  It is overwhelming, and it is not just the numerous tourists and vendors who trade in the area but also various performers – in costumes, with musical instruments, with flyers – all trying to garner some attention to what they are providing.  It is a Mecca of distraction, but in so doing it is also vastly entertaining.

It is among these street performers I met the Chicago Girl. I refer to her as the Chicago girl as she was handing out flyers for that well known Broadway play that goes by the same name – Chicago. And, like the actors who play on Broadway, she was handing out flyers while moving in a well crafted, choreographed manner.  That, I think, is what caught my attention – that she would put that much effort into distributing flyers. And, at that point, I couldn’t help but take photos of her in her street performance.

Because of the hustle and bustle of so many persons walking by, it was hard, no difficult, to capture her.  To make things even more frustrating, the one lens I could have used to have a more isolating effect – my 55-200 mm lens  – was left at home to save weight.  So, for a moment, I was fighting an uphill battle. That is, until, the crowd parted just enough for me to capture her and her alone on the street doing her usual performance. I caught the photograph in this post in an experience which can only be communicated as Henri Cartier-Bresson’s “Decisive Moment”.

Without a doubt I really enjoyed my Sunday tour of the city. I enjoyed the visit to the museum, the crowds, the activity. I enjoyed the street performers and yes even the visitors made the experience welcoming. But, overall, I have to admit, the Chicago Girl made the experience all the worthwhile.