Jackson Heights

WSN’s Photo Editor Alina Patrick visited Jackson Heights last week, challenging herself to walk up to strangers and ask to take their photograph.

Alina Patrick

Jackson Heights

WSN’s Photo Editor Alina Patrick visited Jackson Heights last week, challenged herself to walk up to strangers and ask to take their photograph.

Words and Photos by Alina Patrick, Photo Editor

 

I rode the 7 train out to Jackson Heights, Queens expecting to spend the afternoon awkwardly approaching strangers and being rejected left and right before coming home with a few hit and miss rolls of film, typical of my attempts at street photography projects. But Jackson Heights surprised me. The majority of strangers I approached were happy — albeit a little confused — to let me take their photograph, and I was excited to see an entirely new neighborhood of the city through their portraits.

I spent the first hour warming up by taking quick snapshots on my Minolta 35mm camera. Nothing good yet, and I was starting to become nervous that I would only have portraits of pigeons to show my professor. After finishing the first roll of 35mm film I pulled out a Rolleiflex, a medium format film camera that looks like a 1950s movie prop. Suddenly, when I approached strangers and asked for their portrait they began to shrug their shoulders and say “OK.” Instead of being brushed off as someone who they must have thought was a crazy tourist lost deep in Queens with a camera, they accepted the idea that I was an artist.

I photographed families, old men, shop owners, street performers, the homeless, food vendors and anyone else I could find. A few people struck up conversations with me and introduced me to their friends to take their portraits. One man who I caught on his smoke break told me he owned the salon we were standing outside of and introduced me to his friend who owned the botanica next door. I am returning on Monday to give them darkroom prints of their portraits and hopefully get to learn a bit more about them and Jackson Heights. I am so grateful to the few strangers who welcomed me into their communities even if only for a five-minute conversation and a photograph.

Email Alina Patrick at [email protected]

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