This piece is dedicated to the memory of one of my dearest friends and fellow Bearcat, Tommy Leslein. This photo essay is an opportunity to see, feel, and take comfort in Tommy’s presence as he still energizes New York City.
Tommy Leslein had a hat- not just any hat- a self-proclaimed “perfect yellow hat.” A bright yellow beanie spotted from a mile away, the joviality of Tommy’s character was perfectly captured in this simple cotton accessory.
Last April, Tommy tragically passed away in a car accident. The loss of such a bright soul was felt deeply by family, friends, classmates, and anyone else who had the benefit of brightening their life with his smile. This Fall has been my first time back in New York City since last winter, it is the place where I met one of my best friends, yet he’s no longer here. It was extremely difficult to cope with the absence of Tommy’s bright, bright soul, but I quickly started to see and feel pieces of him all throughout Manhattan. New York was Tommy’s favorite city, the energy and ambition that runs through the streets mirrored that of his own.
On particularly hard days, I find myself encountering splashes of the bright yellow color that Tommy loved so much all around me. This essay documents one day- one day in which I missed my best friend and he reminded me that he’ll always be with me. Beginning at 3:23pm on the Lower East Side, I filled my empty hand with my camera, and for the first time, documented the way in which Tommy surrounds me. As I first thought of this essay, I was concerned I wouldn’t be able to find enough yellow hats to complete my story- it’s not as though Tommy’s energy comes and goes on command. Immediately, however, walking past me with a smile was a man with a bright yellow hat. I mentioned to him that his hat is a “statement piece of happy,” and took a photo as we parted ways. Traveling up to 105th street, yellow danced around me as I recalled Tommy’s bright face standing next to me on the subway as it was so many times. I then made my way to Time Square- a place where Tommy denied he enjoyed so very much, especially at night. Until 10pm I walked around, documenting the many times in which I felt Tommy there with me. I laughed, cried, and talked to my best friend as I completed this piece, all the while knowing he was there beside me.
Questions I have:
I would certainly be willing to go back out there today and take photos of more yellow hats, if the 2 shots of yellow jackets just seems too out of place.
Should I document the area better, or just focus on the splash of yellow?
Would longer captions next to the images help or add something to my project, or do the time stamps say enough?
Some of the photos are edited slightly to emphasize the yellow- is it too much? Which ones?