To most people, 4am is an unearthly hour only viewed at times of airport transfers and the occasional drunken stagger home. But for Birmingham photographer Karen Strunks, 4am is a particularly magical time to see the world.
Karen is the founder and motivating force behind the 4am Project, a synchronised global snapshot of the world at 4am. And this weekend sees the 4am Project taking place once more – so wherever you are at 4am on 17 October 2010, why not take a picture of what you see? (Karen’s given her tips on how to take a good pic below).
As for Karen, well, she’s gone to New York City for a special 4am Project meetup in Times Square and some 4am holiday photography. I personally think she should have gone to The Other Birmingham – but she’s is an uptown girl and a very Cosmopolitan (cocktail) lady so she’s packed her scarlet lipstick ready for the Big Apple instead…
1. What, in a sentence, is the 4am project?
The 4am Project is a global collaboration in photography whose aim is to capture a view of the world at the often unseen time of 4am.
2. So why are you taking the 4am Project to New York?
I want to expand on the reach of the project and I thought New York City would be a great place to start!
3. Did the travel element attract you personally too?
Absolutely. It’s a pleasure to be able to combine the 4am Project event in NYC with a travel adventure.
4. What exactly is the plan for 4am Project NYC?
I am hosting the 4am Project event on 17 October in Times Square – the beating heart of Manhattan. Meeting at 3.45am outside the Times Square NYPD Station, the photo walk will start at 4am and continue until 5am. I’ll be inviting the photographers to grab some breakfast afterward to make it a social occasion and give the opportunity to meet other photographers.
5. Any personal travel plans – I notice you’re tweeting about your trip at @karenstrunks?
Yes, while I am in New York I shall be blogging about my stay over on my new blog: Big Apple Unpeeled. I shall be exploring as much as I can of the city and sharing my findings online. I’ll also be asking people to get involved and have a say in what part of the city they see next.
6. Are you concerned about safety at 4am in the big city?
No more so than in any other city. I’ve noticed that there is a high police presence in NYC and particularly in Times Square. Naturally we need to take precautions where ever we are, such as being aware of our surroundings and who is nearby, and I’d suggest not going down quiet, empty streets on your own.
7. Do you have a favourite 4am picture that you (or someone else has taken)?
Oohh, you have put me on the spot! In the interests of fairness I’ll pick one of my own as it’s too hard to choose out of the 4500 photographs that have been submitted so far: http://www.flickr.com/photos/karenstrunks/3142037028/ (taken at the Acocks Green bus depot).
8. Any tips for early morning snapping?
Yes, you will need a longer exposure to capture your image so making your camera stable is essential. Use a tripod if you have one, but you can also use something like a beanbag or bag of rice or porridge! Experiment with different lengths of exposure and if you’re camera has a self timer mode use that, as by pressing the shutter button you could accidently cause the camera to move and that will add blur to your photograph.
9. What’s the best thing you’ve done in NYC so far?
That’s hard to say! I had a great time in Central Park. I didn’t really do much myself, but just strolled and observed other people in the park. I liked that the park was being used by so many different groups of people. There were the joggers and bikers, the dancers, the skaters, the bare foot runners, the dog walkers, ball players, the meditation groups, the singers and those that were playing their instruments. I loved that people were doing their own thing and were seemingly unconcious of anyone else.
10. What do you need us to do?
I would love some help spreading the word about the 4am Project. People can help out by blogging and tweeting about the project and telling their friends.
You can follow the adventures of Karen Strunks at Big Apple Unpeeled, and you don’t have to be in New York to take part in the 4am Project – check out the 4am Project site for more details on how to join in.
Meanwhile, here are the latest pictures taken at 4am, plus my own 4am Project photos – from the aftermath of a wedding party to the tungsten-lit streets of Southend-On-Sea two years ago.
Wishing Karen and all other 4am photographers all the best for this Sunday morning. It really is worth doing and a rather surreal experience to boot.
The New York Subway at 4am pic (above) is by hy136/Flickr. Meanwhile below is a shot (by Simon Gray) of Karen being interviewed at a Birmingham New Street station 4am meetup.