Category Archives: visuals

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Waiting in line for the MoMA’s Rain Room: Some datapoints and pointers

Update (7/24/2013) – Confirmed: you will likely never get to see the Rain Room in New York if you haven’t seen it yet. See the table below to see the latest wait times.

Summary I saw the rain room MoMA exhibit. If you are thinking of visiting it, too, be prepared for a long wait, even as a member. Jump to my compiled historical list of approximate wait times.

I finally saw the much-talked about Rain Room – by the art + design + engineering group, rAndom International – at the MoMA this Saturday, and all it took was waking up at around 5:30AM on a Saturday to get in the members-only line at 6:30AM, which is 3 hours before the “members only preview” actually opens. I was first in line, and about 15 minutes later, a couple joined me. They were members too, despite only visiting New York for the weekend, because they had bought memberships just to see the Rain Room. In addition, they also had the (correct) foresight to arrive extremely early, because (non-bribery) money alone was not enough to guarantee a reasonable wait, as the line grew pretty quickly even at 7AM.

If you don’t care for my admittedly lame anecdotal experience, here’s a crowdsourced table of wait times, by date, day of the week, and membership type, according to the MoMA’s Twitter account, a Twitter search for “#rainroom hours”, and other bloggers.

Wait in hours Date Day Arrival time Line type
9 July 23 Tuesday 9:10AM Members
(Capacity reached) July 22 Monday 2:30PM Both
(Capacity reached) July 14 Sunday 9:00AM Both
4.5 July 12 Friday 2:00PM Members
6.5 July 12 Friday 2:00PM Non-Members
1.75 July 8 Monday 9:30am Members
4.5 July 7 Sunday 9:24am Members
7.5 July 7 Sunday 9:24am Non-members
3 July 6 (me) Saturday 6:30am Members
7 July 5 Friday 10:15am Non-members
4 July 5 Friday 8:30am Members
6 June 29 Saturday 11:39am Non-members
4.5 June 29 Saturday 11:39am Members
7 to 8 June 28 Friday 11:40am Non-members
3.5 June 16 Sunday 1:30pm Non-members
4.5 June 14 Friday 12:31pm Non-members
3.5 June 14 Friday 12:31pm Members
3 June 7 Friday 8:30am Non-members
5 May 22 Wednesday 10:30am Non-members
3 May 20 Monday 2:16PM Non-members
1 May 20 Monday 2:16PM Members
6 May 18 Saturday 10:48AM Non-members
4 May 18 Saturday 10:48AM Members
5 May 18 Saturday 10:30am Non-members
3 May ?? ?? 9:30am Non-members
1.5 May 14 Tuesday 11:38am Non-members
0.5 May 14 Tuesday 11:38am Members

Was it worth it? Well, if you’ve heard and seen what the exhibit is about, don’t expect to experience many startling epiphanies beyond what you can already anticipate (unless you’ve never been around falling water and/or used an umbrella). One of the reasons why the exhibit has such long lines is that it can only accommodate about 10 people at once. More importantly, by mandate of the artists, rAndom International, every visitor is allowed to stay as long as they want so that they can experience the exhibit on their own terms.

However, the MoMA politely urges you to keep your visit at 10 minutes. That was enough for me, even after building up the assholish-level of self-entitlement that comes naturally with waiting in line on Saturdays. Like I said, the Rain Room is what it’s been advertised as: it’s a big dark room where it rains around but not on you. It’s neat in a way that my terrible writing doesn’t quite fully capture, and its core experience stands on its own without eliciting the sneaking suspicion that it’s one of those high brow performance artworks in which the actual artistic value is in how many people it fooled into standing in line for an otherwise mundane experience. But I think I was able to get the full gist of it after 10 minutes…or maybe I just felt guilty about everyone waiting outside in the hot sun.

If you just want to see the exhibit, that is, to stand in the room and watch the people who’ve waited for hours to walk under the rain, there’s a separate, much faster line (a wait of minutes, not hours) for that. But not being under the rainy section kind of misses the point…

The exhibit closes on July 28, about 3 weeks from now, so I imagine lines are just going to get longer.

Note: For the rest of the summer, the MoMA is open until 8PM on Thursdays and Fridays, which gives you a few more hours of accessible time.

Getting in line

This was the line on 54th street at around 7AM, two hours before the exhibit opens (note: bring something to read):

Waiting for the MoMA's Rain Room

I had tried to see the Rain Room the day before and naively thought that showing up at 8:30am with my membership card (members are allowed in at 9:30; general admission starts at 10:30) would be more than enough preparation. And this was the Fourth of July weekend, when you’d expect most of the MoMA members to have left town, leaving me at the head of the line of non-member tourists. Nope. The members-only line stretched down the block and the wait was at least 4 hours in 90-degree weather. While I was there, I overheard a staff member saying that waiting times had been as long as 9 hours (but I didn’t hear what day or time that was for).

So getting in line at 6:30am on Saturday for a 3-hour wait before the day got hot is actually the sane thing to do.

Other data points

The actual wait time varies by day and time. On July 4, the MoMA tweeted it was 4 hours for members, 5 hours for non-members (just in case you worried you’d miss the fireworks).
Back in June, the MoMA said the line typically reached capacity at 3PM, when the average wait was just 2-3 hours for members. A staff member told me that they’ve now cut the line as early as 1:30PM and that in the Rain Room’s debut in London, the exhibit’s lines would reach capacity even before the exhibit opened.

Update: On July 17, the New York Times noted that on the previous Sunday, the line was shut down at 9 AM (i.e. a half-hour before the exhibit actually opened)

Note: The queues in London were reportedly as long as 12 hours

Blogger Usha Joy wrote about her experience in the general admission line on Saturday, May 18. She said the wait was 5 hours: with just 20 people in front of her in the non-members line, she had to wait two hours to get put into the back of the entrance line, and then from there, 3 more hours to actually enter the exhibit. Now that it’s July, I imagine the time delay is a bit longer.

In late June, the MoMA tweeted that a mistaken blogger had fooled people into thinking that June 28 was the last day, leading to waits of 7 to 8 hours. At that time, the MoMA’s Twitter account also said member waits could be as short as 2 hours, and that Tuesdays were best.

To see a list of dates and purported wait times, here’s a link to the table above.

Line for the MoMA's Rain Room

At about 8:15 they let the line move into the fenced holding area, because it’s already long enough to go down to 6th Avenue (interestingly, the non-members line was still almost empty at this point). If you’re a member bringing in a non-member friend, you can purchase admission tickets for your coattail-riding friend inside the fenced area. Actually, everyone can buy tickets at the tent inside, so maybe you should wait on purchasing tickets until you’ve made it through the gauntlet. According to Usha Joy, the wait inside the fenced area is about 3 hours.

They also sell snow cones, too.

At 9:30, we were let in. Whee. Well, I was the first in line so this is what the Rain Room looks like before anyone else is inside:

MoMA's Rain Room; first one in

Here’s some video I took entering the rainy part of the room. In the last part of it, you can see how the room is divided into the “interactive” area and a viewing/waiting area:

There’s plenty of space for people to move around and have their own little personal un-rained spot:

MoMA's Rain Room

The exhibit has some room on the side for people who just want to view the wet fun:

MoMA's Rain Room

Here’s a short clip of me looking up at the ceiling without water getting all over my camera. You can see where the sprinklers are turned off, presumably because people are right under them.

Unlike some special exhibits, the MoMA encourages you to take photos, so feel free to satisfy your Instagramming needs. It’s mostly safe to take your DSLR camera in. If you stand still, water shouldn’t fall on you, though the exhibit’s sensors may fail to track your movement once in awhile. I got doused but I was able to change lenses while standing still.

Posing in the MoMA's Rain Room

MoMA's Rain Room

MoMA's Rain Room

The photos and video above were taken with my DSLR. But you can get decent shots with a camera phone if you expose correctly. This is a photo from what my camera phone:

MoMA's Rain Room

While 10 people get to actually run around in the virtual rain, 20 others are on deck, worrying that the water will run out just before they get their chance to enter.

Waiting for the MoMA's Rain Room

MoMA's Rain Room

So that’s the Rain Room. Pretty novel experience but whether it’s worth the wait is up to you. For me, 3 hours not in 90-degree weather is a decent tradeoff. Nine hours? I’d say, no. The exhibit closes on July 28, so there’s probably going to be a growing rush/panic to see it over the next few weekends.

In summary: prepare to give up a workday or a very early morning to see the Rain Room. Is the Rain Room worth hours of your working/resting life? Is any art worth that? Once you’ve convinced yourself of the affirmative to that perpetual life question, the second question to answer affirmatively is: do I own a lightweight, opaque umbrella?

I initially thought that people who had brought umbrellas while waiting in line for the Rain Room were people who hadn’t read the description of the Rain Room and/or the day’s weather report. But actually, they were smart enough to realize that there’s not much shade on 54th Street. The MoMA does have a few spare umbrellas for those near the front of the line…but don’t go without your own. It’s a long time to stand outside, rain or shine.

Line for the MoMA's Rain Room

Waking up at the crack of dawn seems excessive, but 3 to 4 hours of when you can just sit/nap in one spot seems way more preferable to standing around in midday heat, waiting for the line to crawl forward. Because the exhibit area is so small, even just a few people can make a big difference in wait. Think about it: 10 people at a time means that only about 60 go through in an hour, and that’s only if they all abide by the MoMA’s courtesy rule of a 10 minute visit (are people more likely to overstay their time in the Rain Room the longer they had to wait in line?…) Hopefully the MoMA does something like the Met did with the Alexander McQueen exhibit in 2011 and extends the hours and/or exhibition period.

And there’s the issue of price. Standard entry to the MoMA is $25. I guess if you get into the Rain Room early enough that you can enjoy a few hours at the museum, it’s worth the money. Let’s say your life’s goal was to see the Rain Room, then even a membership just to see it may be rational: If the average difference in wait between members and non-members is 3 hours, then ($85 – $25) / 3 is “only” $20 per miserable hour of waiting.

While I couldn’t justify paying a one-time cost of $25 and waiting for 5+ hours for just about anything, including the Rain Room, I’ve been a member at the MoMA for awhile. And at the risk of sounding like a shill for them, the membership is a decent deal if you live in the city. The MoMA lacks a pay-whatever-you-want policy (as at the Met), so the membership is worth it if you have frequent visitors, because guests of members get in for $5 apiece (i.e. befriend a member before seeing the Rain Room). I’ve even paid for the Film membership for the special movie events at the MoMA’s theater, the best of which by far was the premiere of Jackass 3D, with Johnny Knoxville and his co-stars onstage afterwards to discuss the artistic impact of being hit in the balls while hitting each other in the balls with their microphones. If I’ve made the Rain Room out to be anti-climatic, it’s only relative to the unrealistic heights of cultural sophistication to which I have been acclimated.

Some more helpful reading material about the Rain Room from The Smithsonian, The Australian Design Review and Gizmodo.

The New York Times called the Rain Room “little more than a gimmicky diversion” and followed up with an article about the exhibit’s popularity.

(You can see all my photos at my Flickr account)

2,000,000 pageviews on Flickr…I think?

After about three and a half years since I registered for Flickr Pro, I’ve hit the 2,000,000 photo-views milestone.

I had expected to hit that mark tomorrow, because of two trending photos I submitted to Reddit’s r/nyc and r/CityPorn subreddits. However, it’s a little strange because I shot past the 2M mark because this photo of an informal Pride parade received more than 19,000 page views in a matter of seconds:

Flickr stats

Flickr stats

If you look at the stats pic above, you’ll see that nearly all of the photoviews come from “Unknown Source”…Nome of my photos have ever reached that many pageviews in so short a time, so I’m guessing someone’s Reddit/Tumblr scraper went bonkers.

I expected this photo of the New York skyline from NYU’s Kimmel Center to be the photo that racked up the thousands of pageviews, but I suppose it’s proper timing that a Pride-related photo would have the honors.

NYC's Washington Square Park, Fifth Avenue, and Empire State Building from NYU's Kimmel Center

NYC’s Washington Square Park, Fifth Avenue, and Empire State Building from NYU’s Kimmel Center

Flickr’s redesign makes it a photo service actually worth sharing

I’ve been a paying Flickr member since late 2009, but this year was going to be my last. I believed this even after I forgot to change my billing settings and Flickr auto-renewed me into 2015, because it seemed chances were good that Flickr, a long-neglected and resource intensive property, would get the ax soon and I’d get a refund anyway.

Flickr’s been a great place to organize and store photos, but its outdated, lackluster design – mostly unchanged for nearly a half decade – made it unappealing for actually viewing photos. In addition to paying the annual $24.95 fee for Flickr’s pro membership, I bought third-party iOS apps just to browse my own Flickr collection. So leaving Flickr would’ve been inconvenient, but only in the way that having to move my dusty box of photos from one attic to another would be inconvenient.

So, of course, I was one of the jaded naysayers who, after hearing Tumblr was bought by Yahoo for $1.1 billion, thought:

  1. Hello Tumblr, welcome to retirement
  2. Goodbye Flickr, that’s $1 billion that won’t be going to your modernization

But Yahoo’s (quite abrupt) launch of a “better, brighter” redesign will keep me a happy member for at least the next couple of years. For the first time in about 4 years of being a paid member, I’ll actually want to use Flickr to show my photos.

Before this week’s redesign, Flickr’s sparse, thumbnail-heavy design – which may have been sensible five years ago, when bandwidth was more expensive – made the service unappealing for easy browsing of images. Here’s what my profile page looked like in April (courtesy of, which apparently captured it in French) compared to post-redesign:

full sizes

Note: Flickr’s JavaScript hides the photos that are outside the browser’s current viewing area, which is why you see all those gray boxes at the bottom.

If you haven’t been actively using Flickr (and based on ongoing reports of Flickr’s demise, this is likely the case), Flickr’s redesign may seem like just catch-up to the photo-heavy designs long adopted by Google+ and, well, Tumblr. But it was an absolutely critical improvement for Flickr. Flickr has had more than enough features for managing and discussing photos (compared to non-photo-centric services), so the fact that the redesign is mostly a skin-deep overhaul is just fine (for now).

This seems almost too obvious to state, but the appeal of photography is rooted in the immediacy and attractiveness of its visual display. A wedding photographer told me that the key to his success was that he took the time to create a printed book of photos for his clients instead of just handing them a photo DVD. Because while photo DVDs hold many more photos, having to pop in the DVD and browse photo files with the computer’s default photo program was a terrible viewing experience. And so clients rarely browsed photo DVDs for leisure. And more importantly, to the photographer dependent on referrals, customers rarely showed the DVD photos to visiting friends and family.

The Flickr “photostream” now actually looks and navigates like a photostream. There’s a few JavaScript issues and performance kinks to work out, but I can’t overstate how much more nicer the redesign is, and I wonder how much Yahoo! CEO Marissa Mayer had to do with pushing it through. When she was a vice president at Google, Mayer was well-aware of how sensitive users are to speed – a half-second delay in retrieving search results resulted in a 20% drop in revenue and traffic from users. I imagine this sensitivity is even more acute when it comes to visual streams, in which we expect to experience images as fast as the light hits our retinas. In 2010, Mayer took some good-natured ribbing about how stingy Google’s (text) search results were. While she didn’t go into the justification behind Google’s only-10-links-per-page design, she spoke proudly of a new infinite scroll feature in Google Image Search, which allowed users to scroll thousands of images quickly.

“People are able to scan lots of visual information, really fast,” Mayer said. “[But] reading a search result may take longer.”

The redesign improves Flickr’s viability as a social network, too. Even though Flickr had one of the earliest photo communities and discussion groups, the homepage did very little to surface those interactions. Instead, the default user homepage put priority on showing users their own most recently uploaded photos, which, if you hadn’t uploaded photos in weeks or months, was not a good use of the homepage. There were subsections for the photos uploaded by your groups and friends, but again, the thumbnail-focused design made this unusable. I almost never clicked through the thumbnails of other people’s photos because it was impossible to know from 75×75 pixels if the photo was worth looking at.

Here’s what the Flickr homepage looked like for nearly five years after the 2008 redesign, (courtesy of CNET):

Via a CNET review

Here’s what logged-in users see on the Flickr homepage today:

The Flickr homepage today, for a logged in user

Right now, it seems that Flickr is just showing the most recent photos from my network, without curating them with data metrics (such as number of views, favorites, comments) to ensure that the photo is also interesting. But I’m already more interested in my network than I’ve ever been.

When Flickr introduced its new mobile app late last year, that actually bolstered my opinion that the service was in its final year, because the new app seemed like the very epitome of a hasty ohmygod-lets-just-do-something plan: “maybe if we add filters, users will come back to us.” But this week’s changes give some assurance that someone in charge really cares about making Flickr relevant again. The photo-centric design and the (practically) limitless storage space are absolutely critical to the way people use photo services. Flickr’s previous limit of 200 photos for non-pro users was made Flickr completely useless in a technological era where the average smartphone user produces 200 (relatively) likeable photos in a couple of weeks.

And the redesign makes Flickr a real home for photos, not just a storage box. For awhile, I’ve half-assedly maintained a set of my “favorite” photos, about 500 of the 8,500 I’ve dumped on Flickr so far. My favorites set wasn’t a place to show off (the album design was as plain as the old photostream design), but merely triage for my photo archive before I finally got around to quitting Flickr to move to an attractive portfolio site. But with the new design, my photoset pages are just about good enough to be portfolio pages:

Part of my "favorites" set

Part of my “favorites” set

To give you an idea of how little I navigated my own Flickr collections – i.e how important the interface is to the photo browsing experience – my first thought when looking through my set of favorites after the redesign wasn’t, “These photos look nice,” but: “Wow, I don’t even remember taking some of these photos.”

Even though the Tumblr acquisition is the big news this week, kudos to the Flickr team for their own big changes and their big ambitions.

The Storm Commercially Known as Nemo

I’ve been fiddling around with my WordPress theme, figuring out how it works as a CMS. So here’s a photo that is somehow going to propagate through WordPress’s “featured image” handling. It’s from the night of the big snow storm last month. I walked for about 5 hours up to Fifth Avenue in Midtown. I got into a pretty good snowball fight in Times Square, too.

1.5 million photo views and counting

Snow storm in Times Square

A snow storm in Times Square, 2009. This photo was in my discarded pile until I went back through my old photos this year.

This weekend my Flickr account made it to the 1,500,000 pageviews mark. Just this January, I blogged how, after more than two years of being a Flickr pro user, I hit 1 million page views. So the pace is quickening.

The biggest change is that I submit more photos to the various Reddit photo forums: probably half of my submissions elicit a yawn, and a few others, such as the above photo of a snowstorm in Times Square*, rack up thousands of views thanks to Reddit’s avid user base.

Other photo milestones so far this year include releasing the Bastards Book of Photography, which features my photos both as good and bad examples for beginner photographers. Late last year, I blogged about posting my 3,000th photo to Flickr after about 3 years. In the nine months since, I’ve blown past 6,000 photos, thanks to my trips to Rome, Paris, and Hamburg for journalism conferences I’ve been honored to take part in.

Photography has always been a side hobby for me. With the professional market facing the same challenges as all traditional media, I don’t seriously entertain photography as a career choice. Yet every year I find myself spending more and more time taking and editing photos. It’s hard to avoid taking photos in a city like New York and I don’t think I’d still be spending money on cameras if I lived anywhere else. It also helps that there are so many opportunities in fashion and other media industries. So maybe it’ll be a decent side career after all.

That snow photo is actually from 2009. I dug it up when I was looking for original copies of the photos for my exhibit in Dresden. Yes, I can brag that I’m an internationally exhibited photographer, even if the show was relatively small :).

Times Square snowball fight photos: now exhibited in Dresden gallery

Snowball Fight in Times Square, Manhattan, Dec. 19, 2009

I guess there’s no better time to post old winter photos than during the summer hellfest we’re currently living in, but there’s an actual timeliness reason, too:

Back in 2009, a blizzard hit New York and I took photos of people balling it up in Times Square. The Flickr blog spotlighted the photos and since then, they’ve been my most requested-for reprints. I received quite a few messages from Germans, especially civic organizations interested in how the then-new Times Square pedestrian-walkways were working out.

At least one non-civic-group liked the photos: STORE Contemporary, a Dresden art gallery, emailed me to ask if they could use the photos in an exhibition. I said, ‘Sure, that sounds fun,’ and then didn’t hear back for about two years.

Well, my international debut is finally here. From July 19 to September 7, STORE (on 14 Pulsnitzer St.), my photos will be featured in an exhibit titled, “Dan Nuygen [sic…er, close enough] & Doug Kim: Snowball fight on main street”.

From Google Translate:

The photographer Doug Kim and Dan Nuygen (both USA) show images of these legendary snowball fight in Times Square in New York City 2009th Of the recent global turmoil images, and a worldwide flashmobs Occupy active movement they did in this little moment. Even before social media enhanced mass events and political actions to habit images of media culture, these were spontaneous rioting led to photographic recordings with unrivaled symbolic effect. (The summer exhibition is the series How the f *** did I end up here? )

I prefer it in the original German, though:

Die Fotografen Doug Kim und Dan Nuygen (beide USA) zeigen Bilder dieser legendären Schneeballschlacht am Timesquare in New York City 2009. Von den jüngsten Bildern globalen Aufruhrs, flashmobs und einer weltweit aktiven Occupy-Bewegung ahnten sie in diesem Moment wenig. Noch bevor social media verstärkte Massenveranstaltungen und politische Aktionen zur Gewohnheitsbildern der Medienkultur wurden, führte diese spontane Zusammenrottung zu photografischen Aufzeichnungen mit konkurrenzlos symbolhafte Wirkung.

So if you happen to be in Dresden during the summer…and for some reason, want to see photos of snow…check out STORE Contemporary. I don’t actually get to go to Dresden, though. Through the magic of the Internet, though, hopefully I’ll get to see what the exhibit looks like.

I had to go back and find the original files for STORE, so I took the opportunity to finally edit through the entire batch I took that night in 2009. Back then, I wasn’t skilled at using the camera controls so most of the shots weren’t of much use. But I was surprised to find a lot of interesting shots that I had apparently overlooked, some of them better than the ones I published 3 years ago.

I uploaded them to Flickr today for archival purposes. They brought back a lot of good memories that night, especially since our recent winters have been weak in comparison:

Crossing the street, NYC Blizzard 2009

NYC Blizzard 2009, Times Square

2009 Times Square Snowball Fight

Charmin girls, NYC Blizzard 2009, Times Square

NYC Blizzard 2009, Times Square

2009 Times Square Snowball Fight

See the rest of the recently uploaded 2009 photos.

The Bastards Book of Photography

Instead of fixing up the yet-to-be-revised Bastards Book of Ruby, I decided to do one on Photography, not least because I have plenty of photos to use as fodder.

It was a nice change of pace; I realized as soon as I released the Ruby book that it needed to be radically reorganized and tightened. So I went into the Photography book with a goal of keeping things short (including making the font-size a bit too large).

More importantly, I got more acquainted with the awesome Octopress platform…which will most definitely replace the moronic rake script I use to compile the Ruby book. I can’t say enough how essential Octopress was to making it possible for the Photography book to be put together in two weeks.

So check it out: a beginner’s guide to photography