Photographs (1962) and editing (2011–14) by James Leahy.
In July 1962 my father took me on a trip to New York City. I was 13, and had just graduated from elementary school.
When we went to New York's Chinatown, my father let me buy a number of items in a tourist gift shop, including a toy Japanese camera that used Kodak 120 film – my first camera.
On the Circle Line boat tour around Manhattan, I snapped away with my new camera: over 35 photos on that sailing.
When I got the 3x3 prints back from the drugstore, they were deemed a failure by all who saw them: “Why did you include the people blocking the skyline?” Why did you show the boat railings and posts?”
So, the photos went into a box and stayed there for 50 years. That was when I decided to look at them again. When I scanned the negatives onto my computer, I was amazed at the details that the original prints didn’t show: strangers’ faces on the boat that I had never noticed; a woman’s hair blowing in the wind at the back of the boat; a child carefully holding a soft drink cup while using the other hand to reach for the handrail; a nun, sitting alone, smiling a beatific, Jackie Kennedy smile.
For this film, I decided to highlight these faces, not ignore them. They seemed to evoke the passengers described by Walt Whitman in his poem about crossing the Brooklyn ferry in the 19th century. The people in my film lived 100 years after the passengers described in Whitman's poem. You, the viewer, are watching the Circle Line tourists 50 years after the event.
I have tried to re-create the feeling of taking a boat cruise around one of the most iconic skylines in the world. Movement and sounds heighten the images.
I have also tried to capture the early 1960s by including sounds and music that I remember from that era: pop songs, show tunes, comedy skits, and news reports.
A month after this trip, Marilyn Monroe committed suicide. In September, I entered a black hole called “high school.” And a year later, JFK was struck down. Truly, the “golden age” of Camelot had come to an end.
I hope you will try to watch this film through the eyes of this 13-year-old, star-struck kid from Scarborough, Ontario.
Thanks to Cliff Caines for getting me started on this film.
Loading more stuff…
Hmm…it looks like things are taking a while to load. Try again?