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.
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.