Posted on April 23, 2015 by Angelo Munafo
When people think New York City, any number of things may come to mind. For me, New York is synonymous with gray skies and open minds. I’m not sure whether my experience visiting the greatest city on earth has simply been an anomaly, but for whatever reason most of my stays have been marked by overcast or rainy weather… my recent weekend excursion to NYC kept the streak alive!
Clouds of mist welcomed us on the other side of the Lincoln Tunnel, immersing us in a city full of damp streets, rain jackets, umbrellas, and disappearing building tops. I emphasize this dreary feel in the four shots which I have depicted in black and white. The grayscale tones also evoke the sense of industrial ubiquity that dominates the skyline, along with the banality of our daily lives. Any pedestrian who dares look up will be confronted with an army of giants looming overhead—enough to make even the biggest ego feel quite insignificant. Visiting New York reminds me how trivial most of life is: it takes a big city to put things in perspective. From the rhythmic pulsations of the subway ride to the geometric steel structures of 21st century buildings, New York is a city that tests our internal equilibrium and stimulates our visual senses. This kind of environment can certainly become overwhelming. Perhaps the best way to see through all the noise and distill the true essence of the city is to view New York through a black and white lens. Though most would assume that the “bad weather” has impeded my enjoyment, I am thankful for the rainy day experiences in this city precisely because they have afforded me a unique perspective, peeling one more layer of skin off this complex “apple.” A monochromatic New York is a tad more manageable New York, one that allows us to take a deep breath and key in on the minutiae that make this city the feat of nature that it is.
However, a portrayal of this cosmopolitan wonderland would be incomplete without the spectrums of color and emotion that characterize Manhattan’s bustling urban life. New York is a city of neon street signs, illuminated basements, and public servants. Though recently called into question, New York has always prided itself on its world-class police and fire departments, and we must not forget how bravely they have served our nation in taking on everything from horrible crime rates to the 9-11 terrorist attacks. Thus, the other five images in my selection feature vibrant bursts of color reminiscent of the passionate personalities that live and work on this island. Too often do we get lost amidst the concrete jungle and forget that New York City is indeed an island oasis—a different kind of paradise, yes, but a paradise nonetheless. The hope, aspirations, and dreams that characterize this city and its people are embodied within the splashes of color that push onward despite the dreary scene that they find themselves in. New Yorkers do not take no for an answer and certainly aren’t the type to get discouraged by a gloomy sky.
Last but not least, New York is a city of stories. It seems that moreso than any other place in the U.S., every individual in this town has a unique tale to their name. We too walked away with an interesting narrative in the couple short days that we spent traversing the NY grid. After hours of intermittent scheming, we were able to sneak into the dorm at the Manhattan School of Music to surprise our good friend Matt Burkett out of the blue. His subway prowess allowed us to deftly navigate the journey from the upper west side to the lower east side. Our destination: “Lil’ Frankie’s” pizzeria. Though signless, dimly-lit, and cramped, this diamond in the rough was filled with a lively crowd of patrons late on this Saturday night and served up some of the best artisan pizza I’ve ever tasted.
Only one item remained on the trip’s agenda before our meal could be complete: my good buddy Nate Forlini wanted a cannoli. And when Nate has a hankering for a particular something, you better bet that he’s going to find a way to satisfy that hankering! The problem was that Lil’ Frankies was cannoli-less—the lone kink in this place’s pristine Italian armor. After a quick Siri search for nearby Italian bakeries, we decided to try one with the caveat that if things went south we had to turn back in time to catch our show. Just a couple blocks away, it turns out that we unknowingly stumbled upon a famous Italian pastry shop that’s been in business for well over a century, Veniero’s! Needless to say, the place was packed to the gills even at 11 PM, and we were in no position to wait around for the rumored twenty minutes to earn the right to order one of their sacred treats. So Nate was forced to walk away a sad camper, disappointed that a golden opportunity slipped through our fingers on account of a shortage of time. But not to worry, after all New York is a city of second chances. Sure enough, our spirits were all lifted as we stumbled upon yet another New York gem, the Upright Citizens Brigade comedy club. These folks pulled out all the stops for their mock late-night show; little did we know that we had just sauntered into their last ever episode!
The city that never sleeps is littered with gems like the ones I encountered that night; it’s just a matter of keeping an open mind towards the possibilities that may be lying behind every rainy street corner. So next time you’re pleasantly surprised while exploring NYC—you really shouldn’t be…
Photography and Text by Angelo Munafo, Copyright 2015
About the Author: Angelo Munafo is freshman enrolled in the College of the University of Pennsylvania, Class of 2018.