Wednesday, November 23, 2011
Waiting at Death's Door
Taking photos in public is a tricky matter, particularly in New York City with such an extraordinary number of extraordinary subjects, both human and inanimate. However, many individuals, including photographers, are unclear as to the exact nature of the laws or their rights regarding photography in public. Basically, any person or thing in public view may be photographed and the images published without giving consent, as long as they are for editorial purposes, i.e., they do not appear in an advertisement. There are mitigating circumstances, however, where a person has a reasonable expectation of privacy, such as shooting someone in a bathroom in a home who is visible from a public space.
Recently, while exploring the East Village at night, I came across an intriguing attractive storefront clad in wood. It was the classic, deliberately mysterious front with no windows and nothing to indicate what the place was. On closer examination, there was a small sign and matching nameplate set in the sidewalk that quietly proclaimed "Death & Co."
A lone couple waited outside to get in. I spoke to them - they were from out of the country and were told that they absolutely HAD to visit this place. I learned that it was a cocktail lounge - tres chic, trendy, and hard to get into. They were apparently told that they had to wait. I quickly slipped inside to get a look. It was an extremely striking interior but, ironically, had many free tables. I have no idea if the tables were reserved, however, it seemed reminiscent of the type of establishment that manufactures a sense of exclusivity and desirability by forcing prospective patrons to wait in line. This is a ploy long used by New York City nightclubs - places such as Studio 54 and the Mud Club were notorious for their policies of exclusion. Hordes would wait outside, each person hoping to be a lucky one chosen for admission.
Soon, a young reservationist appeared with a clipboard. I was told that I could not take photos of the exterior. A slight altercation ensued. I informed her that I had a right to do so and that if she liked, we could call the police and review my rights to do so.
She went inside and returned with the owner. He was quite polite and asked the reasons for my photography. I explained this website and gave him a card for New York Daily Photo. He apologized for his reservationist and agreed, of course, that I had the right to photograph a door on the streets of New York City. He gave me his card - a mysterious, understated thing with Death & Co on the face and Frankie Rodriguez with contact information on the reverse. He offered me the opportunity for a photo shoot of the interior at a future time before business hours.
I promised to return. I asked the owner the reason for their notoriety. He answered that their drinks were very exotic, with unusual ingredients researched by the bartenders. Many reviewers online found Death & Co well worth the ordeal to get in. A number of others had similar issues as I did with the reservationist. Hey, but what do you expect Waiting at Death's Door? :)
Note about their name. From their website:
In 1919, the Volstead Act brought a swift end to nightlife and the refined craft of the American bartender was outlawed. It was thought that to drink alcohol was to live a life shadowed by death. It was thought by some that these were death and company.
Related Posts: In a Different Light, The Dark Side, The Core Club