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NYC photographer adventures | 5. American dream or nightmare?

Updated: Jun 18, 2023

Things didn’t turn out as fabulous as I had expected. For the first few days, we had no photography sessions scheduled, so we could get used to the New York City vibes a little bit before getting down to work. These let’s say warm-up days were definitely needed because of our jetlag, and to be honest the rainy, chilly weather didn’t contribute either to overcoming our bad feelings. Anyway, we headed downtown to explore the streets of Manhattan. More specifically, Norbi played the role of a tour guide to show me the well-known and also less popular places of the city. He encouraged me to start taking some street photos on our way.

VIKÓ SPEIER Professional Photographer, Central Park, New York City Shot on Olympus E-M10 Mark III  with Olympus M.ZUIKO DIGITAL 40-150mm f/2.8 PRO
Central Park, New York City (Shot on Olympus E-M10 Mark III with Olympus M.ZUIKO DIGITAL 40-150mm f/2.8 PRO)

Street photography failures

Even if his idea sounded simple, it turned out to be an extremely challenging task for me. Especially since my way of working as a photographer in Budapest is that I get hired by my clients, so that they have their own intention to pose for me and have professional photos taken. Street photography, on the other hand, is a completely different genre, you have to act like a paparazzi photographer, as the aim is to capture spontaneous moments. My attempts in New York failed several times, because I was worried about what passers-by would say if I took a photo of them without their consent. What if someone was disturbed and outraged? Plus it was difficult to approach the subject without having control over what was going to happen, not being able to give instructions to the models was really strange for me.

Missed chances never return

Although I had expected a dreamlike journey, my first American experience was rather frustrating. Unfortunately as time passed the tension didn’t seem to ease, but it certainly increased. I was full of anxiety that I was just wasting my time instead of making my dreams come true in the Big Apple. I couldn't get used to the fast-paced nature of NYC, not to mention doing street photography, it was a complete failure. I was more than annoyed that most of my pictures taken during the first day were disastrous and I couldn't compose my shots as perfectly as I usually did at our photo studio in Budapest. I felt helpless and it crossed my mind that I might not be spontaneous enough to enjoy the American lifestyle. I tried to stay positive ignoring these thoughts, but somehow it didn’t seem realistic to make enormous progress in only 2 weeks.

Speier Vikó Professional Photographer, Central Park New York City
Chicken Over Rice at Central Park, New York City (Shot on Olympus E-M10 Mark III with Olympus M.ZUIKO DIGITAL 45mm f/1.2 PRO)

Hello impostor syndrome!

Due to the lack of inspiration, we rather grabbed some chicken-over-rice for lunch and sat down on a bench at Central Park to eat it. Norbi tried to comfort me that I'd get over my depressed state of mind as he felt exactly the same way when he first visited New York, so he was quite familiar with my struggle. He didn’t manage to dispel my doubts and even if we had a lot in common, he still had more than 20-years of professional experience in the photography business. Realistically speaking, it's absolutely insane to compare myself to him, but given that we traveled together to the US, it was relatively hard to ignore the fact that he succeeded in everything at his first attempt while I was constantly failing. But never mind, that's what happens when you step out of your comfort zone.

Model photoshooting at Times Square

My first scheduled photography project started to relieve me from my anxiety. As mentioned in a previous blog, I got to know a guy during our flight who was involved in the fashion industry and was about to visit his friend in New York. We agreed to arrange a photoshooting together at Times Square. This model shooting was a redemption in itself, where I got a glimmer of hope that maybe it wasn't a waste of money to travel across an ocean to be here in the heart of New York. Something completely changed at this point and I got the feeling of flow as Norbi and I were taking turns photographing the boys. The rain didn't bother me anymore and even the water droplets looked pretty as they were illuminated by the lights of Times Square. As I was taking the shots a couple of Russian tourists got envious of the boys and asked me to take some cool portrait photos of them too. Much to my surprise, they even gave me 10 dollars at the end. As I was looking at the photos on the subway on our way home, I got relieved that my American dream would not be a total failure after all.

Model photoshooting at Times Square, New York City (Shot on: Olympus E-M10 Mark III with Olympus M.ZUIKO DIGITAL 45mm f/1.2 PRO & 17mm f/1.2 PRO)


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