Wednesday, February 10, 2010
Anywhere You Want
Sometimes you get what you want, and on rare occasion, doubled. For a long time, I have waited for an opportunity to photograph members of the New York Fire Department on one of their supermarket shopping trips.
At a neighborhood supermarket, Morton Williams on LaGuardia Place in Greenwich Village, I had noticed that one company drove and parked a full size firetruck outside the store on a regular basis, did their shopping as a group, and drove back to their station. The first time I sighted a group of firemen with their uniforms in the aisles, it was quite startling - everything about them seemed so large and imposing. The men are big, further enhanced by the bulky, protective clothing.
Post 9/11, photography is a much more delicate issue, so, rather than try a clandestine approach, I gave out a few cards and asked them directly about taking photos. They were very accommodating and told me that there were two companies shopping, not just one. I had really hit the jackpot.
There was a lot of joking and jibing between companies, particularly when I asked about the firefighter wearing a red helmet and whether it was standard gear. I'm not sure if I got a straight answer - there was a lot of inside humor that I was not privy to.
Firehouse dinners are an international tradition. Long shifts and lots of down time between calls has resulted in many unique rituals. However, like any tradition, there are rules and protocols - who shops, who cooks, who pays, what to cook, etc., with variations depending on the particular firehouse.
With a job providing such a vital service, there comes a few privileges. For the FDNY, it's a nice home cooked dinner and easy parking. Where do you park a full size hook and ladder in Manhattan? When you're the FDNY, the answer is - anywhere you want :)