Central Park Secret Proposal Shoot

Bastien called from Paris explaining his desire to have his New York City proposal secretly photographed.  The morning of his arrival, Bastien told his soon-to-be fiancé that he needed to meet a client for coffee, but instead went off to meet me at the studio for advice and recommendations about how to propose in Central Park.  He sat with me and explained how he and Anchi were very private and wanted a secluded spot in Central Park.

I explained that there were very few ‘”secluded locations” in the park and that to be stealthy I needed the cover of a busy area.   In the meeting we discussed the locations I’ve found work well, whether he wanted me to reveal myself post-proposal, his route into the park, and how to propose to give me the best angle.  We looked at the hourly weather forecast and discovered the forecast for 3pm was not good so we discussed rain contingency plans.  We used Google topographical mapping to diagram his route into that area of the park.

I demonstrated my shoot plan with a sketch of the park bench, the  positioning of Anchi and my move to a 50-50 angle for the proposal.  I recommended a route and the plan was for Bastien to text me when they were in the park.  He was to sit with Anchi on his left.  Chat, relax, share a laugh, and keep her engaged in conversation to avoid detecting me. When he felt the moment was right, he was to give me our signal “a big yawn and stretch of his arms” and I would move across the path  into the moment of truth position.

The Groom Grooming session lasted an hour.

Central Park: there are vendors selling pictures, artists selling caricatures, musicians playing and of course food carts selling  hot dogs and ice cream.  I  scout an unoccupied bench and inform a nearby caricaturist that my client is going to propose 40  feet away and that I would like to use him as cover. The chosen bench faces east.  To get there you have to pass a  Peruvian quartet filling the area with the mellifluous music.  I shoot some  photos of the setting and practice my moves:  Catch them approaching, move to a bench opposite, once given the stretch signal move to the caricaturist for the two shot of Bastien kneeling in front of Anchi.

Oh no, a charcoal portrait artist has now settled on the proposal bench with his large setup!  “Sir,” I explain, ” right where you’re sitting a man will ask his girlfriend to marry him, could you sit on the other side? ”  “When? ‘”Any minute!  Can you please move across the path”.  “It’s really hot in the sun I am not a young man you know.”  My phone startles me. I answer, it’s Bastien,  I deliver my instructions, say, “Walk towards the Peruvian band, walk another 50 feet further. There’s  an empty bench on the left.” I wink at the artist. “Yes. I’m clearing it now”.  The artist slowly gets up and moves his display and beach umbrella.  I race a hundred feet back to my first position and watch for the couple.  As I pass the place where the band was minutes before, I discover only one member is sitting there, not playing, but watching the equipment.  The others are gone.   I reach for my wallet and take out a $20 bill.  Simultaneously I spot the couple approaching about a hundred yards away.  I interrupt the guitarist biting down on his hot dog and hand him the $20 bill and say “Start playing right now!”

I race into position to shoot Bastien and Anchi ambling down Poets Path just small faces in the crowd and the real job begins….

– Terry Gruber

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