New York State Of Mind

White Caviar Life New York City fashion shoot by Australian fashion photographer Kent Johnson.

I love the way my heart beats in New York City.
My upbeat heart and an excitable mood had me wandering about in Central Park on a Sunday; Sunday afternoon of the 9th in September 2001 to be exact. It was a glorious day with blue sky and light breezes. Late summer, early fall in Manhattan; my off-shoulder blue top and ’50s-inspired black skirt were enough to keep me warm, so my black cardigan was wrapped around my shoulder all day and was just there as an accessory.

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'New York State of Mind' fashion story by White Caviar Life.

After hours spent in the park, finally I had enough of asking strangers to take photos for me with my pocket camera. Well, that was how I did it, way before the smart phone and selfie were introduced. Also, I was getting a little tired of chasing around those cute yet fast-moving grey squirrels for my holiday picture collection. ‘Time to go home!’ I said to myself. ‘Home’ for me during my 2001 visit was a rented single room in an apartment block on 38th Street East, between the First and Second Avenue.

White Caviar Life New York fashion shoot on location at The Roger hotel.

I walked along 5th Avenue just for the sake of it. While not the most direct way back, I wanted to take in as much of Manhattan as I could. Even on a Sunday, there was never a dull moment, it’s the city never sleeps, let alone resting!
A few doors past the famous window of Tiffany & Co, I was approached by a white tee, blue jeans wearing young white male… ‘Hi, are you Korean? I had my first solo exhibition in Seoul a few years ago!’
Well, I have to admit that, this kind of direct line of approach happened to me quite often in New York City during my 2001 long holiday.

White Caviar Life New York Fashion Week photo shoot on location at The Roger hotel.

John? Tom? Ethan? Whatever name he called himself, it’s lost in time. This boyish looking, five-foot-six self proclaimed artist offered to walk with me because.., apparently we were ‘heading in the same direction’. There and then, if I had been honest to my true feelings, I should have told him ‘No, thanks!’
However, knowing it would be handy to have someone who could help when the time comes to press my camera’s button – I gave in, and found myself strolling along with a local.
Although I didn’t mind Ethan’s company, after a dozen blocks, I didn’t really wish to see him again, so I told him I would need to turn left to 38th Street East and say good-bye there.

‘Let’s grab a coffee at the Starbucks and go sit in the Bryant Park!’ ‘I really want to go home.’ ‘Come-on, it’s a New York thing to do, you’ll love it! Just one coffee, come-on!’ It was hard for me to turn Ethan’s suggestion down as he had kindly snapped some tourist portraits of me with my little camera; and, I was feeling intrigued to find out what’s this ‘New York thing’ – which I had not yet tried.

Minimalism fashion shoot on location at The Roger hotel in Midtown Manhattan for White Caviar Life.

So we grabbed our American coffee, walked across 5th Avenue, past the beautiful Library to the Bryant Park. Here, there were plenty of green iron chairs and benches, even a lovely carousel. Ethan picked a bench that was facing the flagstone paving; beyond the path we saw a lovely grassed square which was nicely framed by trees and Art Deco high rise buildings.
It was not such a bad idea to come here after all!

‘Don’t move!’ ‘Let me help you to remember this moment!’ Ethan grabbed my camera, by then he knew how it worked. He walked a few steps to the edge of the path in front of us and kneeling down, was ready to take a frame for me. Right at that moment, there was a man, another man, tall and achingly handsome who was wearing a dark red and navy check camel blazer with blue jeans. He walked along this path towards us. He carefully avoided blocking Ethan’s view and walked behind him… As he did so we looked at each other and our eyes locked. He smiled at me and my upbeat New York heart stopped right there and melted.

White Caviar Life New York Fashion Week photo shoot on location at The Roger hotel.

Mr. Gorgeous then picked the next bench along from me to sit down. Between us, was a big tree. I was still shaking from that fatal look and smile I had received. As a grown woman, I couldn’t mistake the message behind it.
Ethan finished taking the picture and came back to our bench, he seemed to sense something in the air, in just that moment something had happened. He started talking to me with a louder voice and came out with more jokes, having conversations with me like we were a couple.

Meanwhile, Mr. Gorgeous waited patiently and was analysing what sort of relationship there was between Ethan and myself. How do I know? I knew it from our very first eye contact and if it sounds crazy, then his body language was a dead give-away: he leaned his upper body forward, his elbows resting upon his knees so his view of us wouldn’t be blocked by the tree. I tried not to look at him at all but I did, how could I not be falling for that hunky, manly face with such an innocent smile. His thick and wavy hair, high cheek bone… He’s tall and fit and well-dressed. He’s perfect!

White Caviar Life Manhattan photo shoot on location at The Roger by fashion photographer Kent Johnson.

‘Did you smile at me? What was that about?’ My internal conversation in overdrive. If I only had known I was about to lose him forever, I’d have walked to him shamelessly and asked. However I never did. Later on my American room mate told me that, ‘What happens here is that if a man, a decent man, he won’t approach a woman if she is with someone.’ Well, that makes the two of us – one tries to be demure; the other to be a gentleman.

Twenty minutes can be an eternity. When I once again looked to the right to see that striking face, the bench was empty! He was no longer there! He had given up! He was gone forever!!!
I stood up from the bench in the sudden realisation my chance had passed, at the same time I heard my shattered heart broken into pieces and falling on the concrete path…
‘Do you want to see my art work in my apartment?’ Ethan stood up too.
‘No!’ This time, and obviously too late, I was true to myself.

White Caviar Life 'New York State of Mind' fashion shoot at The Roger hotel's penthouse Terrace Room with the view of the Empire State Building.

Off I shot to the nearest subway station, I ran downstairs with a vague hope of stumbling across him, and was faced with an almost empty platform. ‘He was gone!’ I couldn’t believe what had just happened to me. I raced back to the park hoping he hadn’t given up, but all I saw was on-lookers, sensing my distress with questionable faces… ‘Yes I am crazy, you would be too if you desperately tried to save your own broken heart.’
I was tired, well, more than tired, I was exhausted. I walked back to his bench and sat there for a while until it started growing dark.

White Caviar Life New York Fashion Week photo shoot on location at The Roger hotel's penthouse Terrace Room with the Empire State Building views.

This mysterious event has haunted me ever since.
Why share it now? First of all I had these new fashion portraits which were taken from our room’s terrace at The Roger hotel selected but no story – other than our stay. Since they were photographed in Midtown Manhattan, and Kent, came out with this title which I love… But what’s the story? My mind was empty, creative block! I have so many amazing memories from New York, why was there a blockage?
So I dug out my well-kept New York albums and once again, seeing a portrait of myself, in that blue top, sitting on the bench at Bryant Park, memories resurfaced and because I can never separate New York City from this mysterious event, it makes perfect sense for this tale – my New York state of mind.

Do you have a similar experience?

Photography / Kent Johnson
Styling / Vivienne Shui

Outfit Of The Day

Miu Miu sunglasses
Calvin Klein maxi dress
Miss KG heeled sandals

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'New York State of Mind' Manhattan fashion shoot by fashion photographer Kent Johnson for White Caviar Life.
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Vivienne is a traveller, author; story teller and sometimes a muse. She seeks a balance between travelling in comfort and style with value; perhaps being the daughter of a hotelier helps there. Through White Caviar Life, you will share in her travel experiences, stories and tips that she hopes to help enhance your own travel.


  1. As always I enjoyed reading your latest work Vivienne. Curious how things run, I guess it is something of a ripple effect. You wouldn’t have been where you were but for the young Ethan, however had you happened to be there solo clearly a different story perhaps could have been written. Ah, the joys of what if!

    • Oh Greg, as much as I believe that everything happens for a reason; I’ve been trying to figure it out the meaning of meeting Mr. Gorgeous and it still remains a mystery. I guess that what I need to learn is to accept it as what it is.
      Thanks for reading my article Greg, I really appreciate your feedback and support! X

    • I thought of you when I was penning down this tale… I thought that ‘Margie would understand.’ And I was right!
      Love and hugs from mid-winter Sydney. X X

  2. I recently went to NYC and totally walked along 5th Avenue just for the fun of it too! Great minds think alike. I love this story and what a perfect spot you found for shotting. I didn’t get any cool shots like yours and I’m kind of jealous – Haha. xxx

    • Thank you for your lovely feedback Jessica. Well considering there was a 16-year gap between my two NY visits, Kent and I wanted to make the most of it. I envy you whose home is only a short flight to the Big Apple and I’m sure that there are plenty opportunities for you to nail the perfect NYC fashion portraits! X X


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