In America’s Stage: Times Square, street photographer Betsy Karel uses five New York City blocks as a metaphor for urban America today. Her premise is that many of the major trends of our society are present in Times Square: globalism, consumerism, ubiquitous sexualization, hucksterism, surveillance, narcissism. All are compressed and amplified here. In Karel’s photos fantasy parades as reality, corporate interests invade almost all public spaces, and Times Square becomes a vivid, almost hyper-realistic, form of theatre.
Betsy Karel is a native New Yorker who haunted Times Square to find what most of the city’s dwellers seek to avoid: the tourists and everything that exists for them in that historic mecca. She records the intermingling of those responsible for the cacophony, those reacting and those who appear oblivious. She recognized the sadness that co-exists with outrageous exhibitionism, the excessive signs competing for attention with 24/7 congestion, workers, beggars, and lovers. Quick glances will miss much of the value and pleasures to be found in these images that are masterfully complex, layered, and astute. Anne Wilkes Tucker