Thursday, October 10, 2013

Awesome Graffiti and Dance Battle at Five Pointz in Queens, New York

Last week was yet another cross country visit to New York City for some more B&H events. (For those of you following my YouTube videos on the B&H channel, we completed another one which should be posted any day now.)

While doing one of the B&H events, a nice gentleman named Chris Ryan, who follows my work and saw some of my graffiti photos from San Francisco and Toronto, suggested that I go to a place in Queens called 5 Pointz to shoot their graffiti. This sounded really exciting. But, Sunday started slowly, with my brother (who I flew out with me for this trip) and I taking it easy. We had walked more than 50 miles in 4 days and our legs were tired. We both said that we would not walk too much on Sunday and that we would kick back and watch football for the day.

Well...If you follow along with the blog, you know that I can not sit still, and I was chomping at the bit to go and shoot something different on this trip to the big city. As we were sitting in the hotel room, 5 Pointz was calling my name. I looked it up on the Internet and determined that it would be a fun 4 mile walk from Times Square.

So, I convinced my brother that it would be a fun walk and off we went. I honestly did not know what to expect, and after walking for an hour and a half, hoped it would be worth it. But when we got there, boy did we stumble on something cool! But, before I give away the surprise, let me tell you how it all happened. (Yep, that is my tease!)

As I mentioned, we walked for quite a while, and eventually made our way into Queens. It was approaching 5pm when we crossed the 59th Street bridge and made the walk for the last 6 blocks to 5 Pointz. The skies were overcast, the light fading a little, and the area did not look great. My brother kinda gave me that "what the heck have you gotten us into?" look.  But then we came to the graffiti area and I was in photography heaven.

The artwork was just amazing with vibrant colors and really cool subject matter. And, because it was late in the day and overcast, I did not have to deal with harsh sunlight or shadows. Time to shoot!

I was teaching my brother to not only shoot the wide shots, but to key in on the details as well.

And speaking of details, as I was walking around and looking at the different painted walls, I saw this black cat hanging out by a chain link fence. I wanted a shot of the cat, but not by the fence. As my luck would have it, the cat jumped to a nearby wall, in front of some cool graffiti and voila, I got my shot!

I am truly impressed by the artistic ability of these street artists.

This was painted in black and white. Something very different than the other street art, but since I love things that are different, this really spoke to me.

Something is up with this one.

More vibrant colors...

This one made me laugh...

And then... as I moved around the corner, I heard rap music and what sounded like a crowd of people cheering. Being the ever curious person, I made my way towards the sound and found the most amazing site. It was a battle of street dancers doing their best to one-up each other, and taunting each other up on stage. 

This is the first view I had of the crowd, surrounded by endless graffiti (with 5 Pointz emblazoned on the building). It was awesome, and I knew that I had to get some shots of this up close.

My brother isn't as crazy as I am. I shot this photo of him watching the scene from afar. But I saw this as an amazing photo opportunity and could not wait to get into the mix.

I worked my way up to the stage, raised my Canon 5D Mark III (with 24-105 lens) up as high as I could, over people's heads and started shooting.

I love the taunting!

With all of this going on around me, I was loving every second of it. This was so different from anything I have ever photographed, and so outside my element. But it was a really calm crowd of people who were having a great time, and I felt totally at ease. My brother had to think I was nuts as I ran around saying "this is #$%#ing awesome!".

I always teach people to shoot with passion, and these people definitely had passion for dance!

When writing this blog post, I did a Google search to see if I could find any information about this event. It did not take long before I found this. I guess I just happened to be in the right place at the right time.

As I was getting ready to leave, I saw this guy painting on a wall. I positioned myself to the side of the subject to get a nice perspective of him working.

And then I moved behind them to take a photo. They turned and I asked if it was OK to photograph them. Neither of them wanted to show their faces but were willing to give me this. I like it.

And then we were done, and we hailed a cab. My brother got in first, and then as I was getting into the back of the cab, I turned around and noticed that there were a couple more walls of street art that I had missed. I asked the cabbie if it was OK to wait a couple of minutes, and he and my brother patiently waited while I explored a little more.

I was so glad that I took the extra couple of minutes to capture the additional graffiti that I would have otherwise missed.

I really liked this art, painted across different textures on the wall.

Lastly, I came across this magnificent brush work. The painting of this person looks great from far back, but even more amazing when you look at the details of each stroke. All I could think of, as I edited each of these photos is, "whoever painted these is WAY more talented than I will ever be."

And then the day of shooting was over, and as I was walking back to the cab, a man came up to me and asked "Are you Jeff Cable?" I have had this happen numerous times in the past, but never in the back streets 3000 miles from home. He said that he enjoyed my blog and wanted to say hello. Thanks to Chris for telling me about this photographic goldmine and to Seamus for saying hello and making my day.

They tell me that the street art is constantly changing at 5 Pointz, so you can bet that I will go back and this again!


Unknown said...

Very cool stuff. Thanks.

Riku Laukkanen said...

Funny coincidence, I was just looking into going to 5PTZ when I go to NYC in march. Hopefully the place will be there then, 'cause I've read that the whole place might be brought down soon. That would be s shame, such cool looking place.

Yuval said...

Dear Jeff,
As always, it is great to read and be inspired from your posts, I'm much further than 3000 miles from you and wish to meet you someday..
Please add some more technical information and some setup issues if you can. Even if it is not so complicated we will understand that it possible to get good results without too much complications and that it is possible by anyone who wants and try (almost).

Shannon Warf said...


Sue said...

Hi Jeff
Amazing shots and such great work!!I think I might look around my town and see if our "artists" are as talented said...

Looks like you got there just in time! Very sad.

Anonymous said...

Good thing you got these shots when you did, the owner had all the artwork painted over white two days ago in preparation for demolition of the building. The end of a 20 year era.

Anonymous said...

I wish that more people were as open minded as yourself jeff. This artform & act of rebellion originally evolved on New Yorks infamous subways aprox 40 yrs ago & has influenced many a teenager to 'pick up the can'. Graffiti didn't start out like this but has developed,mastered & experimented with over time from the very basic tag into what you witnessed at 5pointz. Truly an amazing inspiring artform which more often than not is misunderstood or wrongly pre-judged & dismissed as 'mindless' vandalism when just maybe those that are behind the can are actually trying to teach us something & show us that there's more to life than material things & money. I'm really pleased you were able to catch this place before recent events sad as it is but as young graffiti writer myself 2 decades ago & continued follower & fan of this culture can safely say that Graffiti & Street Art will continue to evolve & impress,be admired,will sometimes equally disgust,shock or be hated be it done with permission or illegally on the side of train from New York to Paris,London,Amsterdam,Moscow,Sydney or wherever. Some people will never be happy until their enviroment & city is completely overtaken by grey blank walls,concrete buildings, souless cold infastructures & everything is controlled or being monitored by big brother....5pointz was a celebration of the cities 'golden era' graffiti past & could well be the last of its kind before the entire city is developed & cleaned up so much to extent that virtually no Graffiti will no longer exist because its been overtaken by the rich,the hipsters & the yuppies....