Dressed in shorts, a golf shirt and tennis shoes, Gary Halby looked like a typical Sunday tourist as he walked the sidewalks of downtown Kent at midday snapping photographs, except for the fact he held a high-end Canon 5D Mark camera with a 70-300mm telephoto zoom lens in his hands. That he was focusing solely on motorcycles and their riders also suggested a more serious purpose.
The former owner of a New York advertising agency and a life-long professional photographer, Halby is shooting and stockpiling photos for a coffee table book that will feature the bikes and bikers of Kent, the town being a destination spot for motorcyclists from Connecticut and New York. “I started to go to Kent last year and just thought the bikes were such beautiful graphic objects,” said Halby, who divides his time between homes in West Cornwall and Manhattan.
Taking shots of bikes evolved into shooting their owners as well. “I’ve actually become friends with a lot of them,” he said. Having already taken “hundreds of pictures,” Halby hopes to have the self-published book out next year. He’s previously produced two other photo collections, including one titled “Umbrellas of Venice” that can be sampled online at his website at garyhalby.com.
Halby, 69, oversaw video shoots of commercials and industrial films and even shot stills for fashion layouts himself in an advertising career that covered more than 40 years. “Now I’m shooting fulltime,” he said.
His most famous shot, though, happened by chance. He was walking in New York in 2008 and snapped a picture of a tower crane – an hour before the 250-foot-high crane structure toppled to the ground, killing seven people. “I contacted ‘The New York Post’ and they published it,” he said. The picture then used by prosecutors who went after master crane rigger William Rapetti.
“My photograph was used as evidence that there was neglect on the part of the contractor. He got off,” said Halby. However, three laws firms bought his photo as did the “The New York Times.” “It was pretty good,” he said.
Halby doesn’t ride himself, but he has come to enjoy the company of those who do. “The people that I’ve met are very interesting people; most professionals; lawyers and artists and computer tech guys. They’re just wonderful. Men and women. It’s not just men. It’s been a very interesting experience.”