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The stars, the planets — or in this case, the moon — aligned this week, as two strangers connected over a serendipitous photo opportunity. In a twist of fate, tourist Liza-Jane Sowden spotted herself silhouetted in photographer Gary Hershorn’s shot of the moon rising behind the Edge at Hudson Yards on Monday.
Liza-Jane may live in Tasmania, Australia, but she visits New York regularly. The marketing manager fell in love with the city years ago. “I have a tattoo of the skyline on my wrist — it’s my happy place,” she said, “I got the tattoo so that even when I was far away, I could look at my wrist and have it take me to that feeling.”
She made yearly trips to New York until the COVID-19 pandemic closed Australia’s borders. Finally able to travel to the Big Apple again, Liza-Jane was looking forward to “catching up with friends and the city of New York itself — being here always makes me feel like I want to skip through the streets.”
A spontaneous decision to buy a ticket to the Edge at Hudson Yards — “I hadn’t gotten the chance to see it before the shutdown,” said Liza-Jane — led her to the attraction’s most popular photo-op location, the glass-angled corner of the observation deck. “Being up on the Edge and seeing the city skyline was so beautiful, and it really brought back how I feel about the city,” she said. She asked someone to take her photograph. Right at that moment, across the river in New Jersey, someone else was doing the same thing.
Photographer Gary Hershorn has his own New York habit — regularly making the pilgrimage to the Hudson River waterfront in Hoboken during the fall full moon to shoot its rise over Hudson Yards and the city’s skyline. “In October and November, the moon is far enough North so that you can see it lined up with the Edge from Hoboken,” he said.
“You actually have the best view of all from across the river — and no other city anywhere in the world has anything like New York as far as skyline shots — whether it’s the Empire State Building, or the Edge, or the Statue of Liberty, or Chrysler Building, or One World Trade Center or any part of the iconic looking skyline, you can just tell that it’s New York City,” he said.
Gary has frequently shot nighttime crowds converging under the moonlight at the Edge. “There’s not a time I shot that I haven’t wondered if the people who are on the Edge ever see the picture and wonder if they’re in it,” he said. On this particular evening, Hershorn photographed the scene with a more powerful lens than usual — and was able to capture the silhouettes of those on the viewing platform.
It was close enough that fellow New York photographer, Jennifer Mitchell, was able to spot a familiar figure — her friend Liza-Jane Sowden, in her signature tutu. “I’ve been wearing tutus for a while, and I always travel with them,” said Liza-Jane. “I grew up loving Sex and the City — we all did back in Tasmania. I found this Tasmanian designer who makes this skirt and it’s been a bit of fun to support a local maker,” she added. “It’s also been a bit of a running joke — people ask me about the skirts and it brings a smile to people’s faces.”
After spotting her friend’s signature outfit in Gary’s photo, Jennifer reached out to Liza-Jane. “She said, ‘I was looking at his moonlight shot, and for some reason, I zoomed in…and I thought, no way!’” said Liza-Jane. “What are the chances?”
“Jennifer and I have a pile of mutual friends,” said Gary. “And as it turned out, Liza and Jennifer are best friends!” Reexamining his shot, “The outlined tutu made it clear that it was her.” The two were able to connect and compare their twin shots, which Gary posted to his large social media following to much acclaim.
“There’s been an incredible reaction on Instagram and Facebook,” said Gary, where comments included, “I love it when the universe gets small like this!” and “art makes this world feel smaller and connected.” Gary would agree: “It really shows how photography connects people,” he said. “To me, it’s all about how small the world really is.”
“Now everyone is going to look for themselves in Gary’s photos,” said Liza-Jane, who was delighted to put the two pictures together and connect with the person behind the lens. “We were able to talk to each other about his love affair with New York, and why he takes these photos to capture the beauty of the city — it really is an extraordinary city.”
Gary has offered to arrange the two photos for Liza-Jane to print and hang proudly back in Tasmania to remind her of her happy place. “Whenever someone comes to my house, I’ll tell them ‘Wait until you hear this story,’” she said.
For now, she plans to enjoy the rest of her trip back to visit her “spiritual home.” Liza-Jane said, “I keep thinking that this happened on my first day back — what else is the city going to bring me?”
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