Written, photographed by, and © Keith Lew, keithlew.com
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As I exit the W4th subway station onto 6th Avenue, I try to remember another time in my life where I was swept along by crowd of people shuffling in chaotic streams transformed into a surging and seething organism, reminiscent of an amoeba with its streaming protoplasm and pseudopods. This night is alive. I can see nothing above me but the canopy of umbrellas, hear nothing but a murmur of those around me, and feel nothing but the costumed revelers soaked through by the torrential downpour pressed against me, and carrying me forth. Only set break at a Phish concert comes to mind, including some similarities in the costumes. All of this was just to get from the subway station to an entry point for the 36th Annual New York’s Village Halloween Parade. The parade has begun and there’s no time to pick up my media credentials.
The crowds lining the parade route are least five people deep, each one looking to interact with the next great costume in the world largest participatory parade. The nearly constant deluge does not slow the marchers or the other revelers down, but seems to do the opposite, with cheers erupting from the crowd every time the rain increases its force, and the drumbeats get stronger to match! Driven by the energy of the crowed, the rain doesn’t slow me down either. While many might sit this weather out, I disregard the dangers to my too-expensive equipment and plunge full force into the rain, thrilled at the prospect of capturing the unique photos that only the rain can create. My trusty Canon 40D camera with Canon 580 EX II flash, is wrapped in two Op/Tech Rainsleeves, which really saved the day. And my perseverance was thoroughly rewarded with thousands of backlit raindrops filling the frame and beautiful reflections of parade lights in the street. Thankfully, the camera appears to have survived to shoot another day!
On the parade route, I first come upon the Banda Musica Azteca, driving the parade with its intense rhythm. Schoolgirls smile, walking the streets with the generally freaky looming over them. Suddenly, I’m ahead of the entire parade, and its bearing down upon me, hooting and celebrating like its their last day on earth! Sailors embrace and exchange kisses like they’ve just returned from war, or they’re heading off to war – maybe they were on different boats, or maybe I’m at the NYC Halloween Parade – with some of the drama from Alfred Eisenstadt’s iconic image, The Kiss (originally published in Life Magazine), and Steve Simon’s amazing redux from the Millennium in Times Square, but with a decidedly Greenwich Village twist! Wow did these guys practice their swoon!