New York is Good

I left Minneapolis just about one month ago. Holy Toledo, where has the time gone? I haven’t been shy to complain about how the majority of my time in the city that never sleeps has been designated to working multiple jobs.  As you might imagine, NY is not a city for the shy in spirit or wallet. “Oh, you’re a starving artist? Get in line and get six jobs.” Because of this, I’ve been feeling very down and unenthusiastic about my accrued creative time, or lack there of.

Thankfully, I had a couple hours off on Friday.  I got up early on the cold, rainy morning and made my way into Manhattan. My usual objective had shifted.  Normally, I go out and be a fly on the wall. I try to capture those unique moments between person and environment. That’s all good and lovely but I want to connect with the people that I captured. I want to step out of the comfort of being a fly on the wall and engage. I want to try creating street portraits.

It reminded me of a project I started many years ago where I was determined to photograph every person in America. Clearly, I never followed through with that production. Regardless, a lot can be assumed about the subjects in a candid, street photograph but sometimes knowing their real story is far more interesting than anything you could create or imagine on your own.  Brandon Stanton is now famous for doing exactly that. Street portraits with a glimpse into each subjects’ life. Insert Humans of New York. In fact, the glimpse he provides are often far more fascinating than the photograph he creates.

Being that much of my wandering is done in public spaces, there isn’t a legal need to ask for permission to take someone’s photograph. Connecting with strangers can be far more fascinating when it includes their side of the story.  So, I asked. And the worst thing that can happen when you ask someone’s permission?  They say “no.” And then you move on. Fear = gone.

Like the man I passed in the subway who denied my photo ask but still engaged:

“Has anyone ever told you that you look like Jack Black?”

“All the time. It’s really annoying.”

Or the two dark haired, bearded and mustached men standing and smoking under a corner store’s awning. Both men were the same height, wearing tight black jeans, a black leather jacket with an intentionally ratty scarf draped around each of their necks. Both denied my photo ask but still engaged:

“Are you twins?”

(simultaneously)”We work at Urban Outfitters.”

So. Without much more rambling, here are some of the street portraits I created a couple days ago. I am really excited about how they turned out and even more excited about the people that I met and the stories that I heard.

                                   [What's your favorite color? Tracy: "I'm a multi-colored woman."]

                                   [What's your favorite color? Tracy: "I'm a multi-colored woman."]

[How long have you been in NYC? "I moved here 14 years ago and loved it." Do you still love it? "I'd love it more if I could really live here."] Wayne loves clothes. Wayne is diabetic.  Wayne doesn’t drink alcohol. Wayne has never been on welfare and always pays his bills on time. Nice to meet you, Wayne.

[How long have you been in NYC? "I moved here 14 years ago and loved it." Do you still love it? "I'd love it more if I could really live here."]

Wayne loves clothes. Wayne is diabetic.  Wayne doesn’t drink alcohol. Wayne has never been on welfare and always pays his bills on time. Nice to meet you, Wayne.

                                                              [Leo the dog. "He just likes it!"]

                                                              [Leo the dog. "He just likes it!"]

                         [Can I take your photograph? "But for what reason?" (looks left and poses)]

                         [Can I take your photograph? "But for what reason?" (looks left and poses)]

                                                   [May from Rio de Janeiro: "I work in fashion."]

                                                   [May from Rio de Janeiro: "I work in fashion."]

                                 [I really like your headband. Neaera: "It makes me really happy."]

                                 [I really like your headband. Neaera: "It makes me really happy."]

[What do you tell people you do for a living? Casey:"Whatever comes to mind at that moment."] Casey has made a living as a full time street character for three months now.  We shook left hands instead of right, without hesitation, as he was holding his mallet and I, my camera. He doesn’t tell anyone about what he does to make a living. He told me about a super sweet organization: Shoot 4 Change. Nice to meet you, Casey.

[What do you tell people you do for a living? Casey:"Whatever comes to mind at that moment."]

Casey has made a living as a full time street character for three months now.  We shook left hands instead of right, without hesitation, as he was holding his mallet and I, my camera. He doesn’t tell anyone about what he does to make a living. He told me about a super sweet organization: Shoot 4 Change. Nice to meet you, Casey.

Nothing will replace my love for street photography because those moments are something magical. Candid seconds in time that will never be repeated.

                                                                                          [street bath]

                                                                                          [street bath]