Shot for Shot: Eian Kantor + Alison Luntz // Midtown East, Manhattan

Shot for Shot: Eian Kantor + Alison Luntz
Midtown East, Manhattan
August 7, 2018

Alison and I met by way of Instagram. I remember searching through some sort of 35mm related hashtag -- this was back when you actually looked through hashtag pages to find cool and niche photos (now they're just filled with spammers and too much content). This photo from January 26, 2014 won me over. Her caption: "Have a wonder-full morning, everyone." My comment on the picture: "your stuff is great! love this in particular." Whenever I see this "WONDER" sign outside of the Broadway G stop, I think of Alison. At some point quite a while after becoming Instagram pals, we grabbed a beer in Fort Greene, Brooklyn and became real in-person pals. 

Since becoming friends, we've done a bunch of photography work together, from traveling around North Carolina to shooting double exposed rolls of film around Coney Island and working as a Digital Tech + Studio Photographer duo in a product photography studio. You can see some of our miscellaneous work here, here, here, and here

We chose to do this Shot for Shot in Midtown East, Manhattan on August 7, 2018. Neither of us had really explored Midtown East before and we thought it'd be an interesting place to check out during rush hour. Hell, one of my preconceptions about Midtown East was that all the assholes who went to my high school in the NYC suburbs became finance bros or lawyers and moved there. We used Google Maps' boundaries of 42nd Street to 59th Street between 5th Avenue and FDR Drive for our Midtown East walk.

We started at about 6pm. It got very dark very shortly after we began our walk, and it eventually started thundering, lightning, and raining, which made for some seriously tough lowlight photography conditions. We welcomed the challenge!

Alison is a native of North Carolina, but now lives in Bushwick, Brooklyn. She is a freelance photographer and digital tech. She is on instagram as @alisonluntz.

These photos were taken with digital cameras. Click an image to make it larger.

We hope you enjoy the photos and the commentary!

- Eian

EK: This bus was stopped at a red light. I immediately noticed this woman wearing a pink shirt against the blue hue of the advertisement on the side of the bus. I then noticed that the headline in her paper said, "SO GROSS." I loved that it was juxtaposed with Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson. I loved that it was the only visible part of the headline and that I'll likely never search for what the rest of the headline said.

AL: seeing this corner made me think of the work of Natan Dvir, who has a great series of normal people living their banal lives in front of glossy larger-than-life billboards. It’s a series that’s really stuck with me, and I think about this contrast a lot while living here — the glamorous, perfectly coifed and styled side of the city, versus the grunge and messy chaos of the street. It gets even more complex when they romanticize and try to sanitize the latter in ads — but thankfully there’s still plenty of stank left on the streets.

EK: Alison and I started our Shot for Shot in Grand Central Station. So much happens at Grand Central: hellos, goodbyes, people running for the 6:17 train to Poughkeepsie, anti-terrorism NYPD officers milling around. I saw this VERY intimate moment happening between a man and a woman (pictured above) from afar. I tried snapping a few pictures. Blurry, not good. We walked around some more, and this couple was still sharing a special moment. I rarely go for second shots (when I miss a shot, I usually just move on), but there was something so beautiful about these two and the image at large. The way his left hand gently holds her arm. The way she smiles and stares into his eyes. The movement of the woman in the pink dress to the left. In a place where everything is moving so fucking fast, these two seemed stuck in time. When I looked at the photos later, I realized that I didn't capture his full head, half of his body was cut off, and the image was blurry. I didn't care. It was such a lovely moment.

AL: oh. my. god. Something dramatic is happening here, in front of the Container Store, which is really the beating heart of Midtown East. I think it’s cool that New Yorkers are so used to being around strangers that they really don’t hold back from having full-on deep discussions while waiting to cross the street. So great for voyeurs with cameras, like us. 

EK: This felt like a classic New York City moment to me. I wonder what this guy was ordering. There are endless options at a diner: was it a well-done burger with fries? was it a pastrami on rye sandwich with extra coleslaw on the side? was it a grilled chicken salad? I have no idea. Right after I took this photo, the waiter looked out the window, saw me with me camera directly pointing at him and the customer, and gave me a look. I have no idea what this look signified -- I'm still thinking about it as I write this blurb.

AL: I guess this is a bit like the shot of the hot dog truck in front of the Louis Vuitton sign, real life items paired with advertisements. I like the incongruity of it, the advertised fruit vs the real fruit, and the fact that the watermelons are all wrapped up and identical so that they don’t really look like real fruit at all, but rather like they grew from the plastic tub  like a 3D printer. Honestly the melon flesh looks a little like meat, which is sort of intriguingly gross to me, haha. 

EK: The way this woman is standing and looking up at the sky was picturesque to me. She looks like a statue. It's not my crispest shot, but the essence of Midtown East felt very real in the pose of this woman.

EK: This was the last shot I took during our Shot for Shot session. This dude seemed tired. It was really humid and muggy out. It started raining as he smoked his cigarette. He didn't care. He was under an awning. Not sure what he was looking at, but he looked contemplative and I too was contemplative in that moment.

AL: This guy stood out to me because the street was pretty chaotic, but he had found a little bubble of solitude in which to do his texting. He’s a bit statuesque, in a funny way, plus I’m a sucker for geometrical features like steps in this type of light. 

EK: I was walking behind this couple and immediately knew I had to snap a photo of them. She put her hand into his and they started walking across the street. I walked ahead of them, waited at the corner as they slowly crossed, and took this photo. I don't really know what it was, but they seemed like they've been married forever and I just admired the way they helped one another move along.

AL: This behemoth of a building kind of bent my mind, optically. The left side, with all the indents, just seemed visually jarring, and at this point the sky was a forbidding grey — thundering, but not yet raining, which cast the whole thing in a mysterious light. At twilight, with lights coming on slowly, it’s easy to wonder about the secret life of buildings, the small differences in the windows sticking out more because of the overwhelming uniformity of the facade.

EK: It was about to pour in buckets. It was thundering and lightning at this point. These two doormen stood on, I think, Sutton Place, and watched as the clouds tried to burst. There were very few people out.

AL: One thing I noticed on this walk through glamorous Midtown East is that there are flags everywhere around here, and here’s the first of them. For me, the way it looms above the terminal changes the meaning of the little moments captured in front of it. This tourist family was Spanish-speaking, and seeing them below this giant dominating American flag made me think about all the difficulties immigrants face in coming here (or even visiting). But what stood out in contrast was their sweetness, and the pleasure they had in taking about 5 minutes to get the perfect family selfie. 

EK: I saw these two from a block away and thought they were interesting. It was extremely dark at this point. My ISO was up to like 4000 and shutter at 1/125 sec at an aperture of 4.0. I knew that whatever shot I was going to get would be noisy and grainy as all hell. What I came to realize only as this couple came neared was that the woman was wearing a "Make America Great Again" hat. I quickly shot two photos from the hip, and as she passed Alison and I, she said hi. I always forget that there are Trump supporters in New York City, but, of course, there are and they would be in Midtown East.

AL: I’m actually not totally sure why I picked this shot. The light at this point (still threatening to rain), was very warm and moody, and it just cast its vibe over everything. These protesters had just stopped (I guess?), and the woman in red seemed really satisfied and effusive. She had this searching expression on, and that plus the STOP and the lips was enough to interest me. Please note Eian’s arm makes a cameo at left. 

AL: Neither of us had spent much time around this part of town, and a bunch of streets had this. It sort of felt like seeing some unpublished draft of a street. Like they’ll think of a more elegant ending later, this sign is just a placeholder, whatever. I’d like to add a question mark to it, honestly.