Jackson Heights photographer will put a Queens spin on father’s famous portrait

Organizers rescheduled a photo shoot featuring Queens residents paying homage to a famous photo from the Harlem jazz age after the event was rained out.
Courtesy of Art Kane Archive
By Bill Parry

A professional photographer from Jackson Heights will try for a second time to recreate his father’s famous portrait with a distinctly Queens flavor.

On Aug. 12, 1958, Art Kane, a freelance photographer on assignment for Esquire magazine, snapped a 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 neighborhood’s moment as the world’s center for jazz.

Fast forward to June 9, 2018, and Art’s son, Jonathan Kane is going to honor the 60th anniversary of the iconic photo by taking his own visual portrait in front of the Unisphere in Flushing Meadows Corona Park.

Working with the Queens Tourism Council, Kane plans to assemble dozens of Queens residents for about three hours on Saturday, June 9, from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m. They will be treated to breakfast provided by the Redwood Deli in Forest Hills and enjoy each other’s company before posing in the same basic T formation as seen in “A Great Day in Harlem.

Kane and the Queens Tourism Council had originally scheduled the shoot for May 18, but a rainstorm washed away the plan. The image Kane plans to capture will depict the borough’s unprecedented ethnic diversity and the wearing of traditional garments 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. “We are living and celebrating everything that’s great about America everyday, and it’s time to share that with the world in a bold and dynamic way.”

People who want to participate in the event, which is entitled “A Great Day in Queens,” should contact Rob MacKay, who runs the Queens Tourism Council, at rmackay@queensny.org. All participants will receive a free copy of the photograph, but there is no other form of compensation, except for the free breakfast.

“A Great Day in Queens will brand our borough for generations,” MacKay said. “The likeness could be used for any number of purposes, including education, tourism, fund-raising, decoration, marketing, and general pleasure.”

MacKay said all residents of the borough are invited to participate, He has already recruited people from the following countries: Afghanistan, Albania, Argentina, Anguilla, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Belgium, Belize, Brazil, Bulgaria, Chile, China, Colombia, Croatia, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, England, Finland, France, Gambia, Germany, Ghana, Greece, Guyana, Haiti, Hungary, Iceland, Indonesia, India, Ireland, Italy, Jamaica, Kazakhstan, Korea, Lebanon, Martinique, Mexico, Nepal, New Zealand, Nigeria, Pakistan, Palestine, Paraguay, Peru, Poland, Portugal, Puerto Rico, Romania, Russia, Serbia, Somalia, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Switzerland, Taiwan, Thailand, The Philippines, Togo, Trinidad & Tobago, U.S. Virgin Islands, and Vietnam.

“I want more,” MacKay said. “We just picked up Moldova and Georgia, but Cameroon is shaky.”

Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparry@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4538.

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