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Photographer recreates father’s famous photo in Queens

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Months in the planning, the photo session for “A Great Day in Queens” drew 125 people from 70 different countries — many dressed in their native clothes — to the Unisphere in Flushing Meadows Corona Park.
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An elaborate camera and lights set-up fed the image to a laptop computer so the photographer could recreate the feeling of the “Great Day” photo in a new image that strives to catch the wild diversity of Queens.
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Photographer Jonathan Kane (l.), who lives in Jacksomn Heights, is the son of Art Kane, who created the famed photo “A Great Day in Harlem,” which caught nearly every great jazz musician of the 1950s in a single shot outside a Harmlem tenament.
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Kane lines up the final shot kneeling in front of the Unisphere. The black boxes are large flash units syched to go off when the camera shutter is released.

On June 9, 1958, Jonathan Kane’s father took a photo that would represent Harlem’s jazz culture in publications around the world for decades to come.

Now on the 60th anniversary, the Jackson Heights photographer, who has followed in his father Art Kane’s footsteps, has composed an image he hopes will represent Queens and the variety of people, languages and cultures within the borough in front of the Unisphere in Flushing Meadows Corona Park.

Dubbed “Harlem 1958,” and also known as “A Great Day In Harlem,” Art Kane’s black-and-white shot featured jazz greats Dizzie Gillespie, Thelonious Monk and Count Basie, among others, gathered on a stoop on 26th Street in Manhattan.

“[Harlem 1958] has resonated beyond its original intent as a group photo for Esquire Magazine, into a full-blown piece of the fabric of American culture and music and history,” Kane said. “That photo has been created in homage dozens of times, always though with other groups of musicians... I wanted to do my own photo to honor my father’s, but I wanted to do it differently and I wanted to do it in a way that had a social and political message.”

Multiculturalism and diversity was the message of the younger Kane’s rendition of the photo, which has been recreated in cities around the world, including one which used the same stoop but with Harlem hip-hop artists.

“My wife and I raised our daughter [in Queens] because we appreciated the fact that our daughter could grow up with children from all over the world and benefit from their culture,” Kane said, adding that he wanted to get as many ethnic groups from the borough as he could in the photo.

Kane’s only criteria for subjects in the photo was that they be born in another country and that they live in Queens.

But his “A Great Day In Queens” photo did not just feature the everyday people of the borough. U.S. Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-Jackson Heights) also stood tall in the back row as well as Borough President Melinda Katz.

“The Queens Tourism Council did an incredible job bringing together residents representing more than 70 countries for this heart-warming display of community,” Crowley said. “This a wonderful opportunity to show the world that Queens’s diversity makes us stronger. It was also a great honor to work with Jonathan Kane in celebrating his father’s legacy. I can’t wait to see the final photograph, which I will proudly hang in my office.”

Rob MacKay heads up the Queens Tourism Council and stood with Crowley and others for the shot, which he believes will represent Queens well as a place for and by many cultures.

“Queens is the most diverse county on the planet. We speak more than 100 languages and profess countless faiths and creeds. And I am so proud that we all get along so well,” MacKay said. “‘A Great Day in Queens’ will brand our borough for generations. The likeness could be used for any number of purposes, including education, tourism, fund-raising, decoration, marketing and general pleasure.”

Reach reporter Mark Hallum by e-mail at mhallum@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4564.

Posted 7:01 am, June 14, 2018
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Reader feedback

Rob MacKay from Sunnyside says:
This was truly a Great Day in Queens. Thanks to Times Ledger for covering it before, during, and after.

Should we do it again this Saturday?
June 14, 3:04 pm

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