I walk the streets of New York City and photograph strangers. Serendipity, evanescence, a deep respect for and affirmation of the world as encountered: these are the elements that are essential to my approach. The scope of my photos is narrow and mundane, like the lives they depict – like the lives of most of us. But I seek glimpses of transcendence in the mundane. I am interested in fleeting gestures and glances, moments of connection in the urban flow, the ephemeral dance of light and shadow and street life. More than anything, what moves me is capturing the infinitesimal outward signs of an inner emotional life, the interiority of people even in the midst of the most public of spaces. My photographs are relics of a momentary merging of photographer and environment, subject and object. The city brings us together, the city prizes us apart. Immersing myself in the flow of the life of the city I feel the boundaries of my self momentarily become fluid, permeable. I abandon myself to the flow. These photographs are as much portraits of individual people as they are portraits of moments of being. They are my feeble protest against the city’s forgetfulness.
As one of a growing number of women street photographers contributing to this dynamic genre, O’Shaughnessy enters the territory with clarity and a distinctly humanist eye, offering a refreshing addition to the tradition of street photography. Through her curious and quirky vision, we witness the play of human activity on the glittering sidewalks of the city. Woven into her cast of characters are the lonely, the soulful, and the proud. She has fallen for them all—perfect strangers.
In October of 2017, the photographer Jeff Mermelstein, who has been taking pictures of New York City street life since the early nineteen-eighties, was walking in midtown, on one of his near-daily shooting expeditions, when he encountered something he had never thought to capture before. “It was somewhere around Eighth Avenue and the mid-Forties,” Mermelstein told me from his home in Brooklyn, when I called him the other day. “I noticed that a woman was sitting there, tapping something out on her phone.” Operating on half-conscious instinct, as he often does when photographing, Mermelstein raised his own phone, went up to the woman, and took a picture, focussing not on her, as he might usually have done, but on the screen of her device. “She was doing a Google search, and it was something about wills, and a line came up about finding six thousand dollars in an attic. It was just a couple of lines there, but I suddenly felt, This could be the germ of a short story. It was a galvanizing moment.”
No matter where you look, the streets of New York City are almost always filled with hundreds and thousands of people. But, in the 1960’s, American photographer Duane Michals found the rare and quiet moments along back alleys, inside offices and shops, and riding in a subway car, where not a single person was in sight. The series, titled Empty New York, was inspired by the work of Eugene Atget, a brilliant photographer who led the way for documentary photography in Paris.
To create his series, Michals walked along the urban streets during very early Sunday morning hours when most of the city was still asleep. The absence of people in the photographs is as powerful as an image jammed packed with a crowd. Through his camera lens, Michals found the peaceful calm of the city and produced interesting narratives that redefine New York for viewers.
Michals once said, “I became so enchanted by the intimacy of the rooms and streets and people [Atget] photographed that I found myself looking at twentieth-century New York in the early morning through his nineteenth-century eyes. Everywhere seemed a stage set. I would awaken early on Sunday mornings and wander through New York with my camera, peering into shop windows and down cul-de-sacs with a bemused Atget looking over my shoulder.”
From MoMA: Chris Ware is a Chicago-based artist and writer who has contributed over two dozen cover images to the New Yorker. Ware’s graphic novels include Building Stories, which was chosen as a Top Ten Fiction Book by the New York Times in 2012, and Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on Earth, the 2000 Guardian Prize winner. His work has been shown at MoCa and the Whitney Museum of American Art. His graphic novel Rusty Brown, Part I comes out this September.
The images Arbus made in Central Park and Washington Square are the subject of a new show, Diane Arbus: In the Park, on view at the Lévy Gorvy gallery in New York through June 24.
The exhibit features photos from throughout Arbus’ brief but storied 15-year career, including some of her most famous images, such as Child with a toy hand grenade in Central Park, N.Y.C. 1962, as well as many others that have never before been displayed.
A rare TV film from 1972. Patti Smith is in love with New York, its art and artists. Will she one day be a star? Jonathan Miller returns to the city where he once starred in 'Beyond the Fringe'. A freewheeling portrait, through two pairs of eyes, of the city that can make or break you.