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'New York Characters' are Focus of Photo Show - 2002-04-21

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and other politicians are saying the city is getting back to normal, but nothing speaks better than a picture. And silly photographs of New York characters on view at a fun new exhibition show New York's outrageousness has prevailed. The collection of work at Manhattan's Corning Gallery cannot help but bring a smile to your face… and if you know New York, you may just burst out laughing.

Arts and fashion photographer Patrick McMullan departs from his traditional exhibitions with a collection of fun, goofy photographs that capture the energy and flavor of New York. The show, called "New York Characters," portrays a cast of famous and everyday characters just being New Yorkers.

From high-fashion models fresh off the runways playing around, to club kids on the dance floor getting down, to office workers after hours out on the town, the photos bring together celebrities, street dwellers and everyone in between.

Art curator Michel Witmer says he wanted something appropriate and helpful for the city after September 11. He feels the city has mourned, and now it is time to move on. But the exhibit features a few skyline shots and one picture of New York firefighters on a call before September 11. In designing even this light-hearted show, Mr. Witmer says he remained sensitive to the recent tragedy. "I did not want to be placing their photos next to the really silly fashion photos and the downtown drag queens," he said.

Photographer Patrick McMullan says there are times to be serious and times to be, well, not so serious, and this exhibition is certainly one of the latter. Mr. McMullan says he himself is a New York character. "What I do is not what I call a serious thing, so people can be light around this. People are here to relax and it is entertainment. I do not need a picture of a dead bird on a step. I feel like I want to raise people's smile factors," he says.

And smiles are everywhere at this exhibition, in the photographs, and on the people enjoying them at the gallery. Viewer Tammi Katherine Jones says Mr. McMullan really knows how to capture New York. "His photographs are very inspiring, they are very vibrant and they really show all different sides of what makes New York unique… in fashion, in politics, in everyday life," she says.

Known for carrying a camera everywhere and being a chronicler of anything and everything happening in New York, Mr. McMullan's photographs depict a city of all walks of life. His work has appeared in magazines such as "Vanity Fair," "New York," German and Italian "Cosmopolitan," and "The New York Times Magazine."

Mr. Witmer says the exhibition shows how New York is different from other cities, in all its craziness. "It is about the everyday New York and what makes New York different from other cities. It shows the outrageous and it shows the everyday, and one thing that sets New York apart from other cities is that the outrageous and the everyday often are one in the same," he says.

One photograph in the gallery sums up that combination of the common and the outrageous - Mr. Bloppy, a pink and yellow cartoon-character with a polka-dotted bow-tie rides in the back seat of a Cadillac convertible on a downtown street. To this reporter, it seemed a strangely normal sight for New York City.