Under Angels' Wings: New York Moments
“No. No.” It’s near the end of the play. The climax grips the audience. “No,” the man to my left whispers again.
And that’s all I’ll write about War Horse. Except … see it. No matter where you have to go, see it.
I’m seeing it in New York City at the Lincoln Center Theater tonight. The artistry of puppeteers moving and maneuvering full-size steeds is amazing, unlike anything you’ve ever seen. The drama. The tension. The staging. The effects. The effects of war. See it.
Okay. A little bit about the play. It’s about Joey, an “Every Horse” in World War I, the Great War, the War to End All Wars.
It’s about the end of the military cavalry. Barbed wire stopped them. Machine guns dropped them. Tanks replaced them.
It’s about the deaths of war, including, according to the War Horse playbill, eight million horses. England sent one million to France. Only 62,000 returned.
In the lobby afterward, a man says to me, “That’s the only war we ever won.”
“Who wins in any war?” I ask him.
He looks aside. “You’re right.”
My companion, Rosalie, and I walk away. “That’s what the play’s all about, isn’t it?” she says.
Proposal—New York City, Lincoln Center fountain; Tuesday, June 28, 11:00 pm
“He’s proposing. He’s on his knee. He’s proposing,” Rosalie exclaims.
The man is tall, dark-haired, in his late 20s. He had handed his pocket camera to me moments earlier and asked that I take a picture of him and the beautiful, also tall and dark-haired young woman at his side. I did, with the Lincoln Center fountain dancing behind them.
“Take another,” he had asked. As I pressed the shutter button part way to set the automatic focus, he turned to face his companion, his head in partial profile to the camera lens, and knelt on one knee before her.
This I see in indistinct high contrast, the couple’s frames as silhouettes against the fountain’s well-lit, pearl-white water. That’s when Rosalie expresses her excitement. “He’s proposing. He’s on one knee. He’s proposing.” I capture the moment.
The woman exclaims. She brings her hands to her face, surprised, shocked, delighted.
I reframe, refocus, reshoot.
He stands. He slips the ring on her finger. They embrace. They kiss. She’s laughing, crying. She puts her hands to her face. She wraps her arms around him. They kiss again—long, with passion.
His camera in my hand witnesses it all. More than a dozen shots for sure. Maybe two dozen. One after another. As fast as the camera’s auto-focus feature allows. From the left when they stand a space apart and gaze into each other’s eyes. From the right when she lunges into his embrace and places her face beside his, her chin on his shoulder. I frame the figures in high-contrast silhouette then catch a glimpse in full color when the flash fires.
I’m a happenstance paparazzo. Rosalie is jumping with joy, giddy with glee.
The couple calms … a little. I hand the camera to him. Rosalie hugs him. I hug the woman. They are Erik and Laura. The diamond was her grandmother’s. “How did you get it?” she queries him.
“I asked your parents.” He’s beaming.
She shows it to us. “It’s from the 1930s. Old fashioned.”
It’s rectangular … lovely, simple, elegant.
I turn on my own camera and rotate the viewfinder forward, beside the lens. I hold it at arm’s length in front of me. The four of us squeeze together, tightly framed. I capture this moment too.
I give my business card to Erik. “Send an email with a couple of the photos on your camera. I’ll send this picture to you.”
Rosalie says, “Send us photos of your first baby.”
I feel like we’ve made friends for life.
The couple walks away. Others nearby congratulate them. A young woman with a professional camera has them pose for her. Rosalie says, “That’s why you felt we had to come back here to the fountain, isn’t it?”
“Yes. After the play, I knew I wanted to linger here. I wasn’t ready to leave.”
“Now, our day is complete.”
“We can’t do any more than this.”
We turn and walk toward the subway that will take us to the bus that will return us to New Jersey. Oh, what a night!
Post script: A few days later, Erik and Laura sent some of the photos I shot that night. I asked their permission to post them on this page, and they agreed.
Check out the energy orbs in photos three (many), four (two over their heads), and eight (two). Click on any photo to see a larger image.