Some of you may have seen the latest issue of Cornell’s alumni publication “Ezra Magazine” and a number have already taken the opportunity to poke fun at me for my cheerful photo on page eight. I suppose I have been called many things over the past five years at college but never has the word “dapper” been used so frequently. Before passing judgment, let me explain myself.
(Architects on the cover of Ezra Magazine, photo by Robert Barker)
This photo, and several others, were the result of a somewhat unexpected visit by the editor and photographer of Ezra Magazine who were intent on capturing the everyday experience of architecture students in New York City. The team realized quickly that the interior of our studio looked too generic and that capturing the essence of the city would require going outside.
With a bit of help, the photographer rallied a handful of students to “get a bite to eat” on the street below. He thought it would be cool if we bought food from one of the street vendors and encouraged us to talk, walk, and explore the neighborhood as we normally do. Unfortunately, there is nothing normal about a photographer snapping your picture while walking down the street and our gaggle of college students stood out like a sore thumb — not nearly as suave as the celebrities who take such an occasion in stride.
(credit: robert barker, cornell university photography)
We headed up to Madison Square Park and the photographer sat me down with my beat-up laptop on a bench near the infamous Shake Shack. He wanted a photo of me (a “cornell blogger”) doing my thing in front of the Flatiron Building on the corner of Broadway and Fifth Avenue.
(Recognize, for a moment, that this is an absurd premise — I’ve never whipped out my computer on location and started blogging. Rarely do I use my computer outside. Blogging is a much less heroic activity than he intended to make it out to be and I could hardly play along without laughing.)
As he directed me to sit in particular ways, we started to attract the attention of people nearby and the Cornell girls (who ended up on the magazine’s cover) started blatantly laughing at me. A large black man, who by all indications was homeless, rose from a nearby bench and started talking intermittently to the photographer and me. In response to a string of questions amounting to “watcha doin?”, I explained that we were college kids taking photos. Apparently the large camera was enough for him to believe we were famous and he launched into a new, slightly crazed tirade:
“I know you! I know you! You Clark Kent. Watcha doin?”
He approached me with his arm outstretched, unwilling to believe we were just some random students. “Your hair is too perfect. I know you!”
At this point, we were all cracking up and I did my best to keep him at bay. The photographer decided to ignore said homeless man and continued to direct me to shift my shoulders in one direction or the other.
Upon hearing my name, the large man started shouting “Tim, Tim, Tim! Look at me.” As I watched, he pulled out what looked to be a busted cell-phone, held it backwards in the air, and announced his intentions: “I’m gonna take your photo Tim! Look at me. I know you!”
(source: ezra magazine, cornell university communications)
Then, to add to the confusion, a recent Cornell alum who I had been attempting to track down in the city saw me from a distance and, before recognizing the oddity of the situation, called out “Hey Tim. Want to get lunch?” This caught me completely off guard, and probably confirmed the crazed man’s earlier impression. I answered that it was “kind of a bad time” and tried to play off the mounting verbal assault as a normal day in the park.
As not to offend the eager homeless man, I turned toward the mock-camera, laughing at my unusual predicament. The Cornell photographer snapped his own picture from the side and it has since made its way to press, ensuring that I will remember this contrived and absurd photo-shoot in Manhattan for years to come.