Hammerstein Ballroom: NYC Venues Broken Down

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As a part of our Concert Photography series, we’ve previously listed all the New York City concert venues categorizing them based on whether or not those venues had photo pits. Now for this next installment, we’ll be breaking down specific venues and including our personal experiences.


Also known as the Manhattan Center, Hammerstein Ballroom is just a few blocks away from the 8th Avenue post office and Penn Station. Security checks will be outside and they tend to be super thorough—as in opening every single god damn pocket of my camera bag and touching all of my gear. The box office tends to be efficient and fast and the ticket scanners at Hammerstein are honestly the nicest people ever. While it’s never the same person, it doesn’t matter who I’m dealing with because all of the Hammerstein staff are so pleasant.

Hammerstein Ballroom is also a beautiful venue, its interior having taken my breath away the first time I stepped into the venue. With your photo pass in tow, on the left side of the venue is where you’ll be entering the photo pit. Security will let you in a few minutes before the act goes on. The entrance to the pit isn’t gated off like at Terminal 5, so you’ll be waiting amongst the crowd.

“They’ll make sure you’re safe while doing your job.” Hammerstein’s security guards are always very nice and they’ll make sure you’re safe while doing your job. As photographers, our attention isn’t always focused on what’s going on around us but rather what we can see through our view finder. So that’s why it always means a lot to me when the security at Hammerstein go out of their way to make sure I’m far away from any pyrotechnics or exploding confetti tubes.

However, I’ve recognized enough security at Hammerstein to know that they don’t screw around. They’ll make sure you have the right credentials for each act. I think I was at Alt-J when some older woman tried to use her opening band photo pass to get in during the main act (which she was not approved for). Security wasn’t having any of her shit, despite what she thought was a good attempt at hiding her unapproved photo pass, and thus denied her access to the pit. So moral of the story, if you’re going to try to sneak into a photo pit, don’t be a shit head about it?

Shit heads aside, the photo pit at Hammerstein is really big and it’s really great for walking around. It’s spacious and far away enough from the crowd that I don’t hear the snickers about annoying photographers simply doing their job. As far as lighting is concerned, Hammerstein’s set up is alright. It’s not much to comment on. Shadows sometimes project onto the right-side wall, which looks really cool.

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Nancy Hoang created Hopeless Thunder in 2007. She conducts the interviews, writes the articles, photographs the concerts, and handles the site's coding & design. (She's basically a control freak.) Her work can also be seen on music publication, CMJ. Contact Nancy for image licensing, assignments, or just to say hi.

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