Viewfinder | The Art of Surprise


One of my favorite parts of street photography is that I never have any idea what I’m going to shoot when I go out walking around. For the most part, it’s about turning a corner and getting hit with something goofy, or beautiful, or one-in-a-million. You can go just about anywhere in New York City and expect the unexpected, of course, but somehow the East Village just seems to generate more of those moments. Here are a few recent shots that took me by surprise.

Bowery Bridesmaids

This was taken on the Bowery which, as everyone knows, is not historically known as being a big hangout for packs of young women decked out in full bridesmaid regalia. But things change, and silky pastel dresses maybe seem less out of place than they once would have been. Still, I think I was as surprised at the sight of them as they were at my frantic camera-grabbing and picture-taking.

Abandoned watermelon

I actually saw this scene develop: a young man jumped out of the passenger door of a car, ran over to the “pig building” on 12th Street, put this big watermelon down on the sidewalk, and hurried up Second Avenue.

BMW Guggenheim Lab: Path to the toilets

I had read all about how the BMW Guggenheim Lab cleared out the ratty lot on Second and Houston, putting up three structures and generally making it a pleasant place to hang out (especially if you’re eating a cheeseburger and a salad at Roberta’s Cafe, just sayin’), but what I didn’t expect is how bucolic this stretch of city could seem. Like here, looking down the “wooded” pathway to the impressively clean bathrooms.

Animus Arts Collective: Flaming Cactus

The Local is actually where I first heard about the Flaming Cactus project, for which the folks at the Animus Arts Collective wrapped about a dozen light poles around Astor Place with thousands of brightly-colored plastic zip ties. So even though I knew what to expect, and had in fact been shooting for a while, it was great to see the bemused expressions on this couple as they stumbled upon this especially thick “cactus.”

Sure and Beau

What a treat this was, to find these two pieces by Sure and Beau early one morning, propped up against the soon-to-be-shuttered Mars Bar. I left them there after taking a few shots, but I’m sure they didn’t last long.


I actually chased these guys down the block after I spotted a pair of Godzillas (there’s one on the other side, too) stuck to the roof of their FDNY pumper. Fortunately, their call turned out to be a false alarm, but I got to see my childhood heroes that’d be the Godzillas, not the firefighters in action.”

Gran Elefandret by Miquel Barceló, in Union Square

Union Square always has a surprise or two, but it was still great to come across the installation of Miquel Barceló’s “Gran Elefandret” earlier this week. It’s so visually busy right around there, it was difficult to get any kind of shot where you could really see the elephant. But I actually like the way the sculpture looks amongst all the bustle and energy.

Scott Lynch is a local contributor. His work can be seen here and here.