Why do we take pictures?

When you take a picture, what are you hoping to capture? A moment, a memory, an emotion?


When you see the photo montage at the end of this post, you might think I opened the wine too early today!


It all started with a tour of the New York Public Library …….


The New York Public Library had a wonderful exhibit on 175 years of taking photos. The exhibit celebrates photography as a social medium.

There is a short path between making a photo and making it public

Photography has always been social

The exhibit was very interactive and lots of fun. It starts by inviting you to take a selfie in a very large overhead mirror. Taped to the floor were the mirror-image words:

i am in the public eye


I didn’t know that I could have this much fun in a library!

I am in the public eye in a public library


The New York Public Library is a living testimony to the meaning of public. Its founding principle is engraved in stone at the top of  one of the massive marble columns in Astor Hall:


The City of New York erected this building to be maintained forever as a free library for the use of the People

The New York Public Library is a National Historic Landmark and a New York City Landmark


The New York Public Library has a great address:

Fifth Avenue and East  41st Street


The entrance to the Library is guarded by two famous and majestic marble lions. Almost every tourist takes a selfie with these mascots of the library.

The lions have names: Patience guards the south end while Fortitude guards the north.

The lions were named by one of New York’s greatest mayors: Fiorello La Guardia. During the Great Depression, La Guardia gave an impassioned speech on the steps of the library. He named the lions Patience and Fortitude because he said that the citizens of New York would need these qualities to survive the Depression.

When you enter the library, the first thing you will notice is that it does not look like a library at all.You will find yourself in magnificent Astor Hall, a fabulous homage to Beaux-Arts architecture, with grand symmetrical staircases, arches, balconies and windows; massive columns and intricately carved cornices; all evoking order and permanence.

There are no books in sight. Most of the books in the Library are no longer in the main building. Bryant Park, behind the library, was excavated in the 1980s. Forty miles of bookshelves were built underground beneath the Park. This was done for space reasons, but it turns out that books prefer a subterranean environment, where heat and humidity are easier to control.

If you have the time, you can join a free tour of the library. The one-hour tour is available on a first come basis. Tours meet at the reception desk in Astor Hall at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m., Mondays through Saturdays (2 p.m. only on Sundays).

The tech revolution started with Gutenberg in 1455 


The tour continues up the grand staircase.

Just outside the stunning Rose Main Reading Room is a Gutenberg Bible, displayed in a glass case.


I used my phone to take a picture of the Gutenberg Bible


There are not enough superlatives to describe the significance of this Bible. Gutenberg printed it on his new invention, the movable type printing press. Wikipedia sums it up:

Gutenberg’s introduction of mechanical movable type printing to Europe started the Printing Revolution and is widely regarded as the most important event of the modern period. It played a key role in the development of the Renaissance, Reformation, the Age of Enlightenment, and the scientific revolution and laid the material basis for the modern knowledge-based economy and the spread of learning to the masses


Can you imagine being credited with the invention that led to the Age of Enlightenment?… or the Renaissance? …. or the scientific revolution? ….  or anything important?


A special edition of Life Magazine names Gutenberg’s invention as the most important event in the last millennium:

Of all the millennium’s technological revolutions, the most far-reaching started just before the era’s midpoint. Throughout history, the ability to read and write had been confined mostly to tiny elites of nobles, priests an scribes. But in the 15th century a literate middle class arose in Europe. Its hunger for knowledge led inventors to seek a way to mass-produce the written word. And when German goldsmith Johann Gutenberg succeeded – creating his masterpiece, a run of 200 gorgeously typeset Bibles – he unleashed an information epidemic that rages to this day.


Gutenberg, however, got none of the glory. His brainchild bankrupted him; the year his Bible was published, a creditor took over his business. Little more is known of the inventor – in part because he never put his own name into print.


[The Life Millennium: The 100 Most Important Events & People of the Past 1,000 Years]

The New York Public Library’s copy of the Bible was the first to be brought to the United States. It is one of 49 surviving copies.


Gutenberg Bibles are among the most valuable books in the world


My library tour was beginning to look like a tech tour … and this thought continued when the tour guide pointed out two original phone booths in the Library.


When was the last time you used a phone booth?


There are two phone booths in the New York Public Library. The phones still work.

I used Norman’s Blackberry as a prop to take this photo with my phone.

Would Alexander Graham Bell have predicted that his invention would revolutionize the way we communicate with the spoken word, the written word and pictures? I think so!

My earlier post on the Alexander Graham Bell Museum in Baddeck, Nova Scotia has a photo of Bell’s photophone, Bell said:

The photophone is the greatest invention I have ever made, greater than the telephone

Make it public with books, photos and phones in a public library

My visit to Public Eye exhibit in the New York Public Library was a reminder that every photo is public.

I asked my brother if I could publish a little photo montage that I made after an earlier trip to New York. He agreed. I warned him that it could go viral and he still agreed.


It all started when I took an ordinary family photo of my brother in front of the New York Public Library…..

After I took this pic, we walked up Fifth Avenue. It seems that every high-end fashion house has a storefront on Fifth Avenue.

It is a treat to stroll along Fifth and enjoy some of the best window displays in the world.

On a grey day, we were struck by a blast of yellow in the Versace window.

Yellow is the New Black for Men Who Wear Versace


This screaming yellow suit in the Versace window is not photoshopped.

We tried to convince our brother that he would look good in Versace Yellow.

We noticed a new design trend for men of pairing a suit with sandals.

If he splurged on the complete outfit, including the sandals, we conceded that he could wear socks with sandals, since it was winter in New York.

This looks like a Versace Bobblehead

To convince my brother that he would look great in Versace Yellow, I photoshopped his head from the Library pic into the Versace storefront photo.

This is one of my first experiments with Photoshop so the finished product looks more like a bobblehead, but good enough for him to see the potential if he splurges on the big purchase.

Magic Happens When You Wear Versace Yellow in New York


Then, the magic happened!

That Versace Yellow-Suit-Man walked out of the store and strolled the streets of New York, right to the New York Public Library. This is the photo to prove it.

You may notice that my brother’s suit is puffed out a bit. He wears a real-size, not a model-size. Luckily, photoshop can handle real-sizing alterations.

Yellow is the New Black for Women

But wait: there’s more to this magical New York story!

Later in the day, my sister and I went shopping at our favourite store in New York, Lord and Taylor.

When we arrived at the Ralph Lauren boutique, I realized that women had also embraced ‘Yellow is The New Black.’

It was time for this beautiful model to see New York. I photoshopped her out of her frame and we strolled to the New York Public Library, where my brother was modeling his new Versace suit.

The Magic Happened when they met

Here is the photo to prove it.

What Happens in New York Stays in New York … unless it is in the Public Eye


If the magic lasts for this virtual Versace-Lauren yellow-suit couple, the New York Public Library is the perfect fantasy venue for their wedding.

They will need to book well in advance. It is a popular venue, especially since the almost-wedding of Carrie Bradshaw and Big in Sex and the City at the New York Public Library.

Does the Versace-Lauren couple need to worry about the cost? If so, here is an approximation: The cost to rent space at the Library ranges from $20,000 to $50,000 depending on the number of rooms and whether the front steps are included. The Library requires a professional wedding planner. Cocktails, dinner and dancing are extra.

To be on the safe side, it is best to budget about a million for a top-of-the-line New York wedding.

That is the end of my little photo montage experiment with photoshop. We usually drag out these pics after a few glasses of wine and laugh and reminisce about our great time in New York City.


Do you look at your old photos?


When I set out for my free tour of the New York Public Library, I thought that it would be a tour about books. Instead, for me, it was a tech tour that blurred the lines between books, photos and phones.

Your visit to the New York Public Library can be a quick selfie with Patience and Fortitude; a stroll through the stunning Beaux-Arts building; a free tour; or as much time as you have to read 53 million books.



Please come back next week as we continue our tour of the Big Apple


Rose Ann MacGillivray

Rose Ann MacGillivray

World Heritage Traveller at BoomerVoice.ca
I love visiting World Heritage Sites, celebrating the world’s most fascinating places and cultures, and most of all, having fun on a trip. Join me on the road to fun and fascinating places. Thanks for reading – and remember to add your e-mail below for updates!
Rose Ann MacGillivray

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