New York in October: Flickr 20under20

Well, let's begin what will be a blog post about the best days of my entire life. After spending a couple of days with my family in NYC (see previous blog post), Christian and I moved over to "Dream Downtown". I had previously looked up this dream of a hotel (ha) before leaving Aus and was astounded at how amazing + luxurious it looked. 

I can still remember to this day, wheeling my suitcase on a wonderful warm evening towards the Dream, filled with absolute excitement. I knew the next couple of days were going to be some of the most surreal and incredible days of my entire life. Immediately walking into the hotel itself was insane - the lights were dim, everything seemed as if it had been purchased from the future. A kind man helped me check in and almost immediately disappeared after I told him my name. I was a little confused, but was pleasantly surprised by what he brought back with him.

Was I in a movie? Haha, I was very lucky to be staying here and felt quite special. Christian and I soon enough made our way up to our room. WOW. My picture doesn't do it justice, so just google "Dream Hotel room".

The very cool elevator. 

My family and I had planned to spend the day exploring Central Park. Before we headed out, Christian and I had to meet up with our parents. As we stepped out of the elevator of the Dream to meet them in the lobby, I spotted David, one of the other 20under20 artists, who in fact, spotted me too! We were both overjoyed to be meeting each other - finally! After we hugged, I heard someone say a very friendly "hi" and very quickly realised it was Brian (who is probably twice my height :P). I had always wanted to meet Brian, having been a fan of his work for so long. Then, about two seconds later, Alex ran over to Brian (who I had just learnt just landed from a horrific flight) + gave him a big hug. I also finally got to meet Alex, who has honestly been my biggest Flickr inspiration since...well a long time, so it was a very good start to the day. Everyone was so kind and I was already looking forward to our welcoming dinner that evening.

I've decided to include two photographs from my previous blog post about some of the day to break up the writing a little bit. I mean, who doesn't enjoy looking at pictures of Central Park?

 Later on in the day, I got to meet a few other awesome Flickr peeps, including the lovely Carol, who sat and chatted with Christian and I in the hotel lobby for quite a bit, while we also caught up with Ben. Christian and I had to then rush off and get ready for the welcoming 20under20 dinner. Luckily, it was taking place just around the corner. Ben ended up walking us over there a little earlier and as we waited, more of the 20under20 artists started to arrive. There was a lot of hugging + "so nice to finally meet you"s - it was so nice! 

I unfortunately don't have any photographs from the night, which just tells you how much fun I ended up having. Ben ended up getting in + joining Christian and I at our wonderful table that included Alex, Zev and Silvia (and their Mums!).  I also got to meet some employees at Flickr, such as Matthew, who was the initial person who emailed me about being chosen for Flickr20under20. I also got to chat to Lou and Andrew who were both judges for 20under20 and were really kind and quite hilarious.  There were a lot of laughs and opportunities to tell our Flickr Stories to each other as well as the head of Flickr - Bernardo Hernandez. It was a really enjoyable and surreal night that I will remember forever. Bernardo and Matthew in fact ended up suggesting that we should all go on a photo walk the following morning, which sounded like a wonderful idea. 

So, the next morning, we woke up to a very rainy day in NYC. Madeline had arrived safely in NYC at this point. Alex met us at the Dream and we made our way over to the International Center for Photography (ICP), where Bernardo had invited us to see the Sabastão Salgado exhibition. Those who came ended up mostly being those sitting at our table from the night before, which was lovely. I've written a lot up until now, so I'll let the photos do the talking. Thank you to Madeline who has let me use + edit some of her photographs for this post.

Alex's snap -  silly me thinking we weren't all going to be serious, ha.

We spent some time in the ICP getting to know each other a little more which was nice. That and spent some nice time out of the rain. Afterwards, we made our way over to Bryant Park and the main branch of the New York Public Library.

Lauren then began to smoke by the side of the road, which turned into an awesome opportunity for a few photos. I was super glad to finally be meeting Lauren, as I have been following her work for so long! She was actually one of my, if not my biggest inspiration for taking self portraits.

We had a quick visit to Grand Central Station before we made our way back to the Dream to get ready for a rehearsal + the actual Flickr20under20 Event + Exhibition! :)

As we rushed back to the hotel to get ready, Madeline, Christian and I bumped into some of the others and I finally got to meet the lovely Lexi, who ended up making her way out here for the event. 

I was running a little late to rehearsals, but luckily, Evan was too. We quickly ran out of the rain into Milk Studios together, catching the elevator up with Olivia. We all got to walk around and see everyone's work nicely hung and checked out the space in general. We were also all introduced to the curator of the event and Vogue's Director of Photography - Ivan Show. Another surreal moment anyone? After we were given instructions and more information about how the event was going to go, I got to chat to and meet a few others I hadn't met yet such as Oliver! I'm so glad Katharina asked if a few of us could get in a group photo because I wasn't too good at documenting these awesome moments.

In less than no time, the event was under way! There were way more people attending than I expected, which was really incredible! So many people were wandering over and checking out my work. I even had a very enjoyable chat with some people from Yahoo while they looked at my work. It was crazy! As you'll notice below, two photographs from my early photography years on Flickr were chosen, as well as two more recent works of mine, which evidently showed my growth as an artist. 

We all received our awards and had a bit of a paparazzi moment at the end as a big group.

I got to meet some wonderful people at the event, including the lovely Rosie Hardy. We had a big cuddle while I told her how much I loved her work. She actually ended up introducing Evan and I to the people behind The Weekly Flickr, which was awesome, as I had followed it for quite a while. More photos from the event can be seen here.

Nicholas had found me in the crowd later on, inviting me to a spontaneous intimate dinner with all of the artists. I immediately accepted and rounded up Christian and Madeline to join me. We left the exhibition and waited outside for everyone else to join us. It was the first time we got to sit down and take some iPhone selfies!

 Bernardo soon joined us and heard about our dinner. He joked about taking us back to his apartment for pizza, which then soon turned into not so much of a joke. He was excited and said to meet him outside, where he'd walk us to his place. Was this really happening? Before he could change his mind, we did exactly what he said and waited outside. A small, intimate dinner where we could all have a chat  and get to know each other without any loud background music soon turned into 50+ people being squished into Bernardo's apartment. Oh...but with a lot of pizza. I couldn't believe this was happening! Multiple elevator trips had to be made up to Bernardo's apartment, who only had one request before entering his home - to take our shoes off. The hallway's perimeter was soon made up of pairs and pairs of nice shoes. It was hilarious. Only a few photos were taken (those below) and I can't put into words what unfolded that night. I remember a lot of things, but the one thing I will share is that there were moments were I stopped, looked around and made sure to take a mental picture because I knew this was a once in a lifetime experience that was probably never going to happen again.  I also remember watching Oliver  trying to eat a huge piece of pizza with really stringy cheese trying not to laugh at how Madeline and I were eating out pieces hahaha. 

Photo courtesy of Alex once again, but taken by Ben...

...and a snap from Madeline's phone.

 smaller group of us headed back to a place near the Dream to have a drink. Nicholas took a polaroid of us all, which he is going to send me as soon as he finds it :) That was probably one of my favourite moments of the entire night,. Most of us couldn't believe the night had even happened - it was great. We shared stories of our current life, our photography life and our future plans. To say I am grateful for Flickr20under20 is a massive understatement. I wish I could do it all again because it honestly went like a blur, but is forever cemented in my mind. I am so thankful to have met and made so many new wonderful friends, most of whom I have looked up to on Flickr for a while. I still have another blog post of this wonderful week to post, so keep your eyes peeled. Until next time :)

Flickr 20 under20 Artists

~ A


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