In a New York Moment

There are no self-taught photographers. There is no photographer who isn’t influenced by photographs they’ve seen. We all are exposed to a lot of photographs on a daily basis, and if we study the photographers who came before us, those considered the Masters–William Eggleston, Steven Shore, Robert Frank, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Helen Levitt, Vivian Maier, Joel Meyerowitz, Garry Winogrand–we can’t help but be drawn to make photographs that we’ve seen before. Or have a classic quality to them.

I was in New York recently and when you’re walking the streets of Manhattan, you can find a lot of people doing a lot of things, but mostly those things are boring–walking dogs, talking on phones, jogging through a park, sitting on a bench. All of these shots are “Who cares?” kinds of photographs to me.

But they might not be to you. It all depends on what catches your eye, what interests you.

Here are a selection of photographs from my day in the city, storytelling photographs that I found interesting.

A simple portrait of a locksmith in his shop, with some very heavy safes sitting outside. (I’m amazed that the first thing we came up with to secure valuables was a box too heavy to move.)
People passing the famous Cafe Wha in Greenwich Village where Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen and Jimi Hendrix among others got their musical starts. I had some exposures without the bicyclist, but she adds just a bit more to the story.
A quintessential street scene on MacDougal Street in the Village. The gentleman with the cane was very aware of me and covered his face in all but this first photograph.
A busy sidewalk of shoppers up near Macy’s and 57th Street. I waited until people were walking in all directions from my overview position in a park, including one walking toward the camera.
A Dad comforting his daughter who doesn’t want to get on the school bus for summer camp. A little moment of life.
A young woman feeding the pigeons in Washington Square Park, and having them eat out of the palm of her hand, literally.
A posed portrait. He said something as I was strolling by like “Nice day to be out making photographs.” I said, “Well then, I have to make your photograph, after all you’re the only one who has spoken to me today,” and he was glad to oblige.
Two characters among the many visitors to Washington Square Park.

None of these photos are of Times Square or the Chrysler Building or the Empire State Building, but all say New York in their own way. I never even got to Times Square. I got off the train at Penn Station and walked to Greenwich Village and then worked my way up to 57th Street to visit the Howard Greenberg Gallery (highly recommended when you’re in town!)

At the gallery was an exhibit of Lewis Hine photographs, and because I asked, and I know they have many famous photographers’ works, I was shown an original photograph by Robert Frank that was an outtake from The Americans project made in the 1950s of a man sitting alone in a booth at an empty bar. I would have taken it home except it was priced at $75,000!

The stories are out there. And street photography gives us license to look at people longer than we normally would feel comfortable looking. It’s our job to be good storytellers, to seek those moments with people doing something other than the most ordinary, and to show us a bit of their world.

We live our lives. We can’t help but be curious about how others live theirs.

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2 thoughts on “In a New York Moment

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  1. These are terrific. My favorite is the young woman with the pigeons. The great thing about this kind of photography is that it shows life in places I’m not likely to visit. It’s a window on the world.


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