New York Streetscapes
Like millions of others, I am drawn to photographing New York's streets and neighborhoods.

Many of these public spaces must surely rank as some of the most photographed subjects on earth . That might suggest that it is virtually impossible to produce a striking and original photo of New York's well-known streets and neighborhoods.

And yet... it is not impossible. The New York street is a bubbling cauldron of potential images waiting to be captured by photographers. On a busy Manhattan street, astonishing images percolate by the second ... and then disappear forever. Just stop... look closely... and wait...

At its best, New York street photography is an odd mélange of the familiar and the bizarre, of sunshine and shadow, of the prosaic and the painterly. A compelling New York street photograph often contains a seemingly spontaneous yet rigorous combination of static and kinetic elements that, of course, will never again precisely recur.

And that is not all. The New York street is, of course, a particularly rich source of social commentary. The New York street is a metaphor for human diversity, tolerance and democracy; just as surely, it is a metaphor for fear, alienation and despair. For the photographer, the choice of metaphor is often a matter of waiting a few extra seconds. Or the metaphors may be presented side-by-side, a composition for which the New York street is particularly well-suited.

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I have no single approach to taking a “street” photograph. If any form of picture-making defies rigid rules, it is this one. But most often I will begin by selecting a building, wall or sign as a static background and wait for interesting dynamic elements to appear. Usually the process is one of exclusion, that is, the removal of extraneous elements through careful framing or waiting for some elements (such as cars) to leave the frame.

In this context more than any other, the photographer’s art derives almost entirely from the selection of the moment in which to trip the shutter. But that’s no small thing: on the New York street, this margin of discretion is enormous.

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All of my photos are copyrighted. If you would like to use a photo, please contact me at sns26@columbia.edu.
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