How to tell a New York story

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This post was originally published as “Rihanna and Drake do New York City” on Being There by Jackson Couse.

Watch the first fifteen seconds of the video for Rihanna’s song “what’s my name?” (featuring Drake), and you will see an expert bit of visual storytelling. Immediately, place is set: New York City. Inside ten seconds the rest of story is established. Drake is in a “bodega,” or corner store, when he sees Rihanna enter. With some quick cutting the tension of sexual attraction is set up. The rest of the video unfolds from there:

The interesting thing about this video is that it is set in New York but neither Drake nor Rihanna is a native New Yorker. Rihanna is from Barbados, and Drake is from Canada, but their affair (on the screen, at least) is a New York story: hot, immediate, and fun. That passion is what makes New York a great city. It is the new New Yorkers that give the city its vibrancy, its creativity, and its effervescent type of unexpected beauty.

On a technical note, I would wager that this video was made using a Digital SLR that takes hi-def video. See the shallow depth of field slip in and out of focus when the subjects move?

To see what I mean, watch the video with the sound off the first time. The second time, listen to it with the sound cranked.

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Jackson Couse is a Canadian documentary photographer in New York City.

2 thoughts on “How to tell a New York story”

  1. contacuento says:

    “It is the new New Yorkers that give the city its vibrancy, its creativity, and its effervescent type of unexpected beauty.”
    wow, that’s a sweet idea. it is always the newcomer that reacts and feel, thus create. the alien discovers, taking everything down to find what he is looking for. i’m am not home, so i declare “this is my land, here I will rule”. we are all newbies, we have to do what has already been done thousands of times. just do it better.
    and love, passion and rhythm… yeah, we’ll see in springtime, so far everything looks frozen. how far is Barbados?…

    • Barbados is closer than you think! Still a little too far though, I wish we had some of their weather here in New York.

      For photographers, the idea of “fresh eyes” in a new place is really valuable. I’ve been trying to balance the need for newness and excitement with my desire to establish stability and comfort. I like being in New York, and I’m starting to get comfortable, but I don’t know if this will ever be home (work-permit issues not withstanding). Will this ever be my place? Maybe.

      Being here, though, is a powerful learning experience, and not just because of school. This city is a challenge and a reward. Every time I want to go home, there’s some new reason for me to be interested. Most of all, I love the people. Every time I leave the house I can meet someone fascinating, if I want to.

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