Once every year since 1970, athletes from across the country and around the world have gathered in New York to run the New York City Marathon. One of the largest marathons in the world, the course is a 26.2 mile route that runs through the five boroughs of New York City. This year photographer Benjamin Norman was one of the half-dozen photographers assigned by the New York Times to cover a section of the route. This was Ben’s fourth year and for the first time he was assigned to cover the Queensborough Bridge that connects Queens to Manhattan, as well as 1st Avenue between 53rd and 103rd Streets.
Ben wanted to find a unique angle to cover the race. But with a number of photographers assigned, how would he show this event in a different way and stand out? Ben looked through past coverage of the marathon to avoid previously used angles and then he called up another photographer, Karsten Moran (who was assigned to his section of the route last year) to ask questions.
After speaking with him, and looking through past coverage, I knew it would be a challenge to make original work. My section of the route wasn’t some remote, never-documented area. It’s First Avenue, in the heart of Manhattan’s Upper East Side.
After he spoke with Karsten, Ben decided it was time to do some ground research. So the Friday before the race he headed up to First Avenue to see if he could coax anyone to allow him elevated access to cover the race.
I walked into a building on 68th and First Avenue to give my pitch. There I met a security guard and started to explain my situation. He was very polite, but said there wasn’t much he could do because the roof was owned by the residents in the penthouse apartment. And guess who happened to be standing in the lobby, waiting for the elevator, listening to my pitch? The owner of the penthouse apartment.
Ben introduced himself to the woman, showed his credentials and pitched the idea to her. Hesitant at first, she finally agreed to show him the view from her apartment.
Upon getting to her rooftop, I knew this would be a special angle: a beautiful, crystal clear view of 1st Avenue from more than 12 stories up, with no tall buildings in the way on either side. It was perfect. We worked out the details, and the morning of the marathon, she left me a key to her apartment.
With access locked down, the rest would be easy. A photograph from the apartment rooftop appeared as the leading image in the NYT special marathon section the following day and Ben has received great feedback from other photographers and friends about his images. Next year, he hopes to start the whole thing over again and create another fresh look for the marathon.
To see more of Ben’s work visit benjaminnorman.com