The collisions are one of the many things that I love about New York City, especially in Times Square. It’s more than the near misses as one navigates through the crowds during rush hour. It’s also the collision of disparate cultures, languages, ethnicities, eccentricities, and political views.
It makes sense. In 1904, the area was named after The New York Times when the newspaper moved its offices there. Today, ABC News and ESPN have a presence there, modern commercial billboards that look like gigantic TVs turn the night into day, and on New Year’s Eve the dropping of the ball is broadcast worldwide.
It is the place to see and to be seen, to experience the sacred and the profane, the costumes and the nudity, the aloof New Yorkers and the wide-eyed tourists, the political right and left and everything in between.
Because of the photographer’s T-shirt, I thought the “real men” statement was affiliated with a religious group. I forgot about my photograph until one morning when I heard a snippet from a radio news station. All I caught was something about actor Ashton Kutcher and “real men don’t buy girls,” which immediately reminded me of my image.
A quick internet search revealed that, in 2011, a foundation founded by Kutcher and actress Demi Moore launched the “real men” campaign to raise awareness of the global sex trafficking issue.
I’m not sure whether the news report would have registered with me had I not seen the two individuals on Times Square with their sign and T-shirt. Every day, high-tech commercial billboards – aided and abetted by glitzy photography, video, and graphics – assault the senses with their siren songs. But simple placards can draw away some of that energy to amplify more meaningful messages.
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