A few weeks ago I took yet another stroll on Brighton Beach’s Boardwalk. This famous boardwalk goes from Brighton Beach past Coney Island all the way to Seagate. This time around I took some iconic photos from the area. In other words, these are exactly the types of photos you would see included in any survey of boardwalk photos. Here’s the GPS track of where I went in a static PNG and then as a Google Map so you can zoom in and scroll around.
First of all, are these photos which are my favorite photos to take on the boardwalk – older men playing chess.
The most interesting thing about photographing these games of chess is getting home and looking through the photos. It is upon reflection one realized that to these men chess is truly a spectator sport. There are usually at least a couple of people who are simply watching the game evolve. They may be chattnig as the game progresses or may be enraptured by the skills of the players. Where else do you see so many people gathering around a game of chess? I’m left wondering what the analog will be for our generation. Sure, video games have mostly replaced chess, but you just can’t do the same – at least with the current generation of video games. A handheld like a gameboy is hard for a bunch of guys to crowd around. A regular video game console can’t be played outside so you can’t get passerbys to glom on.
Of course, sometimes, the games are played without anyone else watching. Here I captured what appears to be men of quite a different age playing together. This gives me hope that the tradition of playing chess on the boardwalk is being transmitted across the generations. I would really like to see a tradition like this take place in all the major cities. One thing other cities, such as Baltimore, would need is an area with benches and, ideally, tables.
Another great subject for the boardwalk photographer is the pet dog. Many, many people love to walk their dogs on the boardwalk so if you like to photograph dogs, it’s a great place to be.
I think my second favourite type of shot on the boardwalk involves photographing the older couples and groups of friends that sit together on the benches. These people generally live on or very near the boardwalk and basically choose the boardwalk as the place where they socialize with their friends rather than sit on their porches or balconies. They usually segregate themselves by sex if there are four of them. To me, this is such a great activity with so many benefits. They can just sit there and wait for friends to walk by on the boardwalk. My wife and I have often run into people we know on the boardwalk. So it encourages more socializing. These people also get a nice breeze and the ocean air. I just love photographing this cross section of Brooklyn life.
Another interesting aspect of New York City in general and the Boardwalk specifically is that some part of it is always being renovated. NYC has a LOT of citizens and visitors and they put a lot of wear and tear on the resources. So you can often find sections of the boardwalk blocked off and being worked on. If you like to document construction and renovation, the Boardwalk is a good subject.
The east-west orientation of the Boardwalk can lead to some awesome sunrise and sunset photos.
Of course, how can you go to Coney Island and not photograph the iconic wooden roller coaster the Cyclone?