Fleeting Moments

This is the very first picture I took on my first visit to NYC, and the first of many portraits I took of the city’s residents. I was walking around the East Village and came across these two old timers waiting for a bus. I can’t say exactly what drew me to them, but, looking at the image now I do get a feel of an era of street photography that was charming and endearing.
I was not expecting to see a person with slippers on in the middle of a cold fall day. They knew I was going to take a picture and even smiled a bit. I felt kind of awkward because I forgot to ask them if it was ok.
Then I wondered what their story was. Were they born here here? Then I realized that their physical appearance told all the story I needed to know. I could tell they were friends and had known each other for a long time. Those grins were surely a sign of an enjoyable life.


The first day I lived in New York with my permanent address, I was amped with inspiration and excitement and, although my body was tired from the move, I absolutely had to get out into the city and explore. I tried to figure out where to go and I couldn’t imagine anything better than Times Square to kick off my first adventure. That night was filled with fleeting moments and extremely limited friendships.
Upon exiting the subway I was approached by a woman in her late 40s, named Sunny. She was from Bayside, Queens.


Sunny asked me if I wanted to follow her to this hotel bar where her friend was playing the piano. Of course I went along for a while. I had my camera and was ready to document anything I could to remember this monumental occasion.

We stood there for a while listening to the music, which was as drab as I had expected. After a few quick hellos were exchanged between us and him we headed off to the heart of Times Square, where the Ball drops on New Year’s Eve.
There was so much energy flowing in the air from the lights and people swirling around. It was about 10 p.m. What we discovered was that Bon Jovi was doing a concert in conjunction with the MTV music awards, which were happening a few blocks away. A truly awesome time to sink into celebrity and NYC high-energy event fun!

The concert was an awesome free event. It was too loud to talk to Sunny but she kept saying things to me. I took some time to shoot a few crowd shots. Everything felt larger than life. Here I was a photographer in NYC doing what I loved with the world at my finger tips. After a few songs we headed over to Radio City Music Hall, where the awards were taking place. Sunny told me she wanted to get a picture of Michael Jackson coming out of the theater, so we walked over.

At the theater entrance there were a lot of barricades, as expected, but there were not too many people waiting. I felt this could be a great opportunity to see someone. We were about 10 feet from the entrance and had a clear view of the red carpet. And before I knew it, there he was. I only saw him from behind, and it was for maybe one second, but how cool was that?!!

I hung out for about another half hour to see if there might be another celebrity I could get a glimpse of. But that was it. I felt my night was complete and decided to head home. I said good-bye to Sunny. I knew I would never see her again. As I walked off there were these funny guys holding this sign up: “Legalize Masturbation.” I had no idea that was illegal in NYC. I thought, I’m in for an adventure here.




Meeting Di

Meeting Diana,


 Mid September 1995.
 Before I head out to work in the morning I usually catch the local news to see how traffic was. I was alerted to the fact that there was going to be grid lock in midtown right in the middle of where I was going to be working. 57th and 5th. Gridlock in New york is unlike any other city congestion. Especially if it was to escort a high profile figure through-out the city such as a diplomat or president. The UN was not too far from where the gallery was so this was a common occurrence. However, on this day I learned that Princess Diana was going to be in town on benefit and if timing was right I might just get a glimpse of her.

I had been working at the prestigious Photography art gallery Pace Wildenstein MacGill on 57th and 5th Ave. I was in awe in heaven on a regular basis with this gig. All the masters of my craft where exhibited here and if they were still living they would come thru from time to time and say hello. Upon my arrival at work I was instructed to deliver a sold piece toa collector in the afternoon. I had some art handling tasks to complete before heading out of the gallery to deliver this work. It was in the foreground of mymind that I had hope to see Lady Diana most of the morning. I had finished my work and was ready to make the delivery. Heading down the elevator I remembering feeling dazed and puzzled as to what I might say to her if we met. Something like “ Hi I’m a photographer… NO… Lets meet for tea, Definitely not. “

After I exited the building, I noticed that all traffic had stopped, including pedestrian traffic. 57th and 5th ave was pretty quite and I knew exactly what that meant. I headed west toward 5th ave and immediately came across a few police officers. They waived me through, and as I walked closer to the corner, I noticed the line of black SUV’s, Limos and Secret service men walking along side this motorcade.

And then the 2nd to last Vehicle was passing me. The window was half way down and I moved closer to the curb. The Limo stopped and Princess Diana leaned forward to look out the window. I felt a chill of excitement and serene calmness run up my spine at the same time. I felt the energy of both eyes gazing at her and her at me and I smiled as big as I could. She also smiled back and for a brief few seconds we were connected. And of course instinctually my right hand raised and offered a few royal ways to the princess. We both chuckled and she was then.. gone.

Lets fast forward to another adventure I was about to go on In October 2014. Back in 1995 we didn’t have social networking via Facbbook and others, but now many of us use it as a means to getting information. I was patrolling my feed as I do daily to see what the newsfeed chatter had to offer me. Diana Von Fustenberg was going to be in Bellevue at Nordstrom flashed through my screen. I knew she was a big designer and thought how cool it would be to  meet a big designer such as her. I have photographed her designs many times and other big designers but, I rarely have a chance to meet them in person.

I was having a great day. I landed 3 new clients and was excited to be going out to meet Diana, I figured it would be a good opportunity to meet like minded people as well. DVF, known for the wrap dress, but also for a great soul who keeps reality in her foreground

After I arrived at Nordstrom I asked a sales clerk where she would be and he told me at her store a few more steps inside the shopping mall. I was a bit confused, so I headed over to her retail store. I went inside and was greeted by a nice person on staff. I asked if she was here yet. She said “ She will be here in a few minutes, you should get in line outside the store. So I purchased my copy of her new book and got in line. Which seemed still confusing to me, because there was only 3-4 people there. I was second in line and as I approached the person greeting she asked my name. I relied “ Derek Johnson “ She looked on the list and didn't see anything.  I was wondering why was there even a list I had no idea. Again She asked my name and could not find it on the list. Then she looked up at my face and into my eyes. “ I know you , your Derek the Photographer .” I was in shock, I was like how the hell do you know me. She said “From the internet… Come on in!”
As so I went back into the store. Walked over to DVF and said hi. She didn’t have much to say to me, I felt she was kind of uncomfortably quiet. Who knows, maybe jet lag or something I thought. I had her sign a book to my wife Sherry and walked to the side. I stood there a while. Before long there were a room full of mostly women milling about the store and getting a signed copy of her book.

 I used to go a lot of celebrity ridden parties in NYC and I always find them interesting. But this time I was seeing our connection through a different level. After I hung out for a while and watched other people get their books signed I spoke with the event coordinators. I then discovered they were a PR firm I had done a project for about 7 years ago. And that job included a portrait of a successful restaurant Entrepreneur that owned a restaurant I worked in and had met about 7 years before. I love this chain of events. We are all connected, we all have value within each other. My belief is that relationships are the most real thing we have on Earth.
My relationship with you may not go beyond this post, but its very real with purpose. The value may only be for a few seconds or for a life time, either way its perfection.