Story Creation (Part 6/8)

HOW STREET PHOTOGRAPHY CHANGED MY LIFE:

“Creating a Story Beyond a Single Photograph”

 BLOG SERIES BY ALEC RILL – Part 6

In part 5 we explored the art of how blending in, returning to the scene, and becoming part of it can be a powerful tool to establish trust and create beautiful and meaningful images. Let’s explore what happens when the photographer is a member of the tribe, photographing other members: that is, when an outsider becomes an insider.

A year ago I was walking aimlessly in Central Park and I was intrigued by two teams playing softball. Both teams had very colorful uniforms—one red, one blue. I didn’t know anything about softball but the colors and intensity of the players interested me, and it felt like a photographic experience was in the making. The red team was the “show Biz” league (mostly working-class service-sector immigrants) and the blue team was the Central Park police team.  I thought “this is going to be good!”

As I watched the games, I was impressed by the intensity of the players. I could sense their camaraderie but also competitiveness. There were people of all ages, skin color, religions, accents, and socio-economic backgrounds. I went early every Tuesday to photograph the entire ritual, from the cleaning and preparation of the field to the end of the game, when both teams would walk past each other and slap high fives—a signal that whatever happened and whoever won, they are all friends. 

I wanted to depict what drives them, who they are, how they ended up there, what they do when they are not playing ball, and who their families are.

Using all of the tools covered in the previous posts, I was able to get close to them and create more than a passing relationship and more of a long-term friendship. I gained their trust and became one of the guys.  

Central Park, Manhattan 2021
Central Park, Manhattan 2021

I wanted to capture their story, a beautiful NY story. What they had in common is that they worked hard and they needed a place, a sport, a venue where they could unwind from the stress accumulated during the week. They wanted to belong to a group where everybody is the same regardless of race, religion, and income. The Central Park Softball league gave them that and much more.

I looked for what unites us, not what divides us. There is plenty that divides people these days: politics, vaccines, race, religion, gender, and so on. We had our differences, but I chose to suspend judgement and focus on the ways that we are similar: We are all immigrants or descendants of immigrants, we all work hard, and we all need companionship and camaraderie.

They let me in into their lives, took me to their homes and place of work, and introduced me to their families. I created another family for myself in Central Park—and I hope my pictures show that. 

I am still friends with some of them and am planning to do a photo exhibit of their lives and the game they love so much.

Here are some photos showing the range of human emotions I was able to capture.

Central Park, Manhattan 2021
Central Park, Manhattan 2021
Central Park, Manhattan 2021
Central Park, Manhattan 2021
Central Park, Manhattan 2021

In my next blog, we will discuss how to create a long-term photographic project.

Until then… keep taking pictures

Alec Rill

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