Jackson Heights photographer will recreate father’s famous photo and pay tribute to the borough’s ethnic diversity

Jackson Heights photographer will recreate father’s famous photo and pay tribute to the borough’s ethnic diversity
The iconic “A Great Day in Harlem” photo will be replicated here in Queens this spring by the son of the original photographer.
By Bill Parry

One of the most celebrated photographs in New York City history will be recreated here in Queens this spring.

It was on Aug. 12, 1958, when Art Kane, a freelance photographer on assignment for Esquire magazine, snapped the photo of 57 jazz musicians in front of a Harlem brownstone.

Dubbed “A Great Day in Harlem,” the black-and-white image of Count Basie, Dizzy Gillespie, Thelonious Monk, and other legends symbolized the genre of the neighborhood. Now, Kane’s son Jonathan is planning to honor the 60th anniversary of his father’s iconic photo by taking his own portrait of Queens residents in front of the Unisphere in Flushing Meadows Corona Park.

The younger Kane is himself a photographer and musician who lives in Jackson Heights, and the image he will capture this May will depict the borough’s unprecedented ethnic diversity. The wearing of traditional garments of their heritages will be encouraged, but not required.

“It’s long been a dream of mine to recreate the image, but with a social and conceptual twist,” Kane said. “Queens is the most diverse county on the planet. We speak more than 100 languages, we profess countless faiths and creeds, and best of all, we all get along.”

Kane, who has been shooting location photography and producing video for automotive and trucking industries since 2008, is working with the Queens Tourism Council on assembling dozens of Queens residents for the three-hour shoot the morning of Saturday, May 19. They will enjoy each other’s company over breakfast in the park before posing in the same basic T formation as seen in “A Great Day in Harlem.”

The image will then be used for any number of purposes, including education, tourism, fund-raising, decoration, and even branding, according to Kane. All participants will receive an enlarged copy, while he plans to create and distribute a poster to interested parties. There is also a plan to create a video documentary of the event.

“We are living and celebrating everything that’s great about America every day,” Kane said. “And it’s time to share that with the world in a bold and dynamic way.”

Queens Tourism Council Director Rob MacKay is currently recruiting people for the photo and organizing the event in Flushing Meadows Corona Park. Anyone interested in participating in the shoot can contact MacKay at (718)-263-0546 or by e-mail at rmack[email protected]eensny.org.

Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparr[email protected]local.com or by phone at (718) 260–4538.

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