New York City; the stage for the play we call the New Yorker Life. The Big Apple. Home to more than 8 million people, it is the most cosmopolitan, diverse, and vibrant place on earth. As Michael Scott wisely stated, “New York, New York… The city so nice, they named it twice.” Not much to add, really!
I know someday I’m going to be desperately sentimental about the long hours I spend every day walking the streets of New York City. I often wonder if I will live long enough to become an elderly woman, occasionally looking over my images, and miss these often tedious days with an intensity I cannot yet imagine. Occasionally I feel a sense of dread when I consider the perfect certainty, the virtual guarantee that someone I’ve met on the street and photographed extensively passes away. I don’t know if I will be able to glide through a loss so substantial. I consider the odds of avoiding assault or other violence directed at me as a lone female constantly outdoors with expensive camera equipment and try to calculate how many lives I have left as an active and productive street photographer, having been very lucky most days. I have not always been fortunate, though, and my physically damaged right eye and two concussions from assaults on the streets have removed some of my naïve perceptions that nothing bad could ever happen to me… My perception of that sense of personal specialness we all have has evolved, and I understand that the inviolate belief that we all possess for a time in our lives that says no true harm will ever befall us is a falsehood.
New York City Architecture and Architectural Photography in New York City by Duygu Tüntaş
Photography is a highly used communication method in architecture that gives us remote access to the natural and constructed environments and the ideas that enable creating them. Photography’s coincidence with architecture needs no discussion as architecture is ‘ideally stable’1 and is becoming a frequent photography subject. However, there is still a gap that waits to be filled with exploratory ways in relating these two.
Architectural photography as a critical practice can mediate creating new ideas on space, time, and architecture. It becomes a means to study forms, materials, and life through the transcription of light. While making these qualities visible, photography can lead us to think differently about our environments by creating a rapture in how we recollect those spaces.
I had a visual-conceptual plan in creating this project. I selected famous architectural locations in Manhattan and brought those diverse atmospheres together with certain visual commonalities. I aspired to push the fixed qualities in architectural photography. Instead of clarity, soft light, and tranquility, I looked for ambiguities, high-contrast, and dynamism.
In the photographs, the sharpness of building geometries is softened and emphasized through the city’s dynamism. The black-and-white enhances the built form and highlights how people’s use and movement transform those spaces. Silhouettes, shadows, motion, and reflections create a common ground within all that differs, and, through them, multilayered instances emerge for further readings and recollections.
Street photography is the perfect medium to record the rapidly changing nature of our lives. It’s illuminating, educative and it triggers curiosity in the viewer about its subject. Suzanne Stein‘s photos of Williamsburg’s Satmar Hasidic Jewish community are the perfect example. Combined with her powerful writing, these photos open a window into the lives of our fellow New Yorkers from Williamsburg, Brooklyn.
Throughout the decades, many photographers produced excellent works documenting New Yorkers and the New Yorker life. Ernst Haas, Melissa O’Shaughnessy , Vivian Maier and Robert Herman are the first ones that come to mind. In recent years an Instagram account grew in popularity so much that it eventually turned into a book titled Humans of New York, and sold millions of copies. (All highly recommended)
The attraction makes sense, though. New York is one of the most diverse places on earth, a photographer’s dream, and New Yorkers are equally as colorful. Anthropologically speaking, an exciting case study in diversity at the very least.
Race, religion, and cultural differences make the city multi-layered and richer. Millions of New Yorkers embrace diversity for the most part and manage to co-exist on a tiny piece of land. This unique situation allows us to meet people from many other countries and learn about the world without traveling away from NYC.
Who is a New Yorker anyway?
We are happy to announce that we are hopping on the “documenting the New Yorker” train as well. Through photography, we’ll further investigate the question “Who is a New Yorker?” This series will get richer by the day, and we’ll see where it goes in the future. Take this post as a starter, part 1, if you will.
The beautiful photographs in this post come from Ohad Kab, our contributing photographer. He connects New Yorkers to the city and gives clues about who they are in a single frame. Ohad being an immigrant adds another layer to his great work. His previous post on NYL, “Dogs of New York” was wildly popular! You can follow Ohad Kab on Instagram.
If you would like to hear other stories from the city’s residents, we highly suggest picking up Humans of NY’s latest book, Humans of New York: Stories. If that’s not quite your vibe, there’s a great film with an all-star cast that exhibits similar, although fictionalized, stories from New York City residents called New York, I Love You, which you can also stream on Prime.
Street Unicorns by Robbie Quinn is now available on Abrams & Amazon.
Street Unicorns: Bold Expressionists of Style is a new photo book by Robbie Quinn, a New York City-based commercial photographer and a favorite amongst the followers of The New Yorker Life. His work allowed him to travel to more than a dozen countries and is associated with current social issues like race, immigration, gender identity, and sexual orientation, encouraging diversity and inclusion.
In Street Unicorns, Quinn shares viewpoints, aspirations, and masterfully done portraits of more than 250 style rebels, revealing his genuine curiosity in people who choose to express themselves through their style; “The conscious choices we make by uniquely presenting ourselves say we matter. It says this is me, and perhaps because we are not all quite the same, we can learn and grow from each other.”
Enjoy our brief Q&A with Robbie Quinn below. Follow him on Instagram. Order Street Unicorns on Abramsor Amazon.
Q&A with Robbie Quinn on Street Unicorns: Bold Expressionists of Style
NYL: How did Street Unicorns start?
I started Street Unicorns unconsciously. It just happened. In my book, I do my best to retrace my life’s experiences to understand what drew me to the work. I think in a large part, it’s my response to the many injustices that humans needlessly inflict on each other. It’s my hope that the book will inspire people to take more risks in expressing their most authentic selves and have others gain more acceptance and appreciation for those that are different from themselves.
NYL: How did you meet the Unicorns?
I’ve met some of the Street Unicorns on social media, some have found me, but mostly they are chance encounters. Whenever I see one on the street, I compliment their style and it often leads to an impromptu photo session. Things are very rarely planned. I’m photographing individuals wearing what they put on that day in the place where we met with natural light. That’s what makes it authentic and special.
NYL: Photographs are stunning! Aspiring photographers will want to know about your equipment.
When I’m not photographing commercially, I always have a camera with me, usually a Sony a7R IV with either a 35mm f/1.4 or an 85mm f/1.4 lens. I started using the 85 more when we wanted to keep more distance from each other for Covid reasons, but now I really like the look of the 85.
However lately, I’ve been using more film too. I learned photography using a Minolta x-700, but I recently started using a Mamiya rz67 pro ii with a 110 2.8 lens. It’s a medium format camera and made for the studio. It usually requires a tripod; it’s a bit heavy, but I like using it handheld on the street. Definitely a bit more conspicuous, but that has some advantages.
NYL: What did you learn in the making of Street Unicorns?
Meeting all these different Street Unicorns from here in New York and the rest of the world has expanded my understanding of self-expression. It has brought into greater focus the idea that we all deserve the freedom to be our unique selves. Rather than building walls, connecting with someone quite different from yourself is an opportunity for growth and learning more, not only about them but also yourself.
NYL: Do you have future plans?
For the future, my only plans are to have no plans. I like to stay open to what life brings. I do know I’d like to travel more and not simply to tourist stops. I want to meet more people and keep exploring. There’s something to be said for staying in one place and putting down roots, but for me, I enjoy the stimulation of constant change.
I searched “dogs new york” on Amazon for Christmas gifts for a friend with two dogs, and I was blown away by the variety and the coolness of options! From sports jerseys to books, treats to squeakers, choices were endless. I bought two adorable plush toys; one is a New York MetroCard, and the other is an NYC yellow cab. They are so cute that I want my kids to have the same designs in their beds, only in bigger sizes.
New York City has 8.5 million people and more than 600,000 dogs. Dogs are as big a part of the social fabric in the Big Apple as their human counterparts. They ride the subway, jog along with their owners in Central Park, walk down the 5th Avenue all dolled up, and sometimes sleep rough on a bench with their humans. Even if you are not a dog person, you get to learn about Shiba Inus, Alaskan Klee Kais, and Chinooks; they are just all around you! There is even a book called Canines of New York! (it’s like Humans of New York, highly recommended if dogs and NY are in your favorite words)
The brilliant photos showing dogs and their New Yorkers in this post are by Ohad Kab, a New York City-based photojournalist and a dear friend of The New Yorker Life. He is a dog owner too. Unfortunately, he recently suffered a dog bite in the lip while petting one of the little monsters in an NYC park. He’s much better after a few weeks and some stitches, luckily.
Please enjoy the beautiful photos by Ohad Kab and follow him on Instagram. He is walking the streets of New York and working on different projects, which we will share on NYL soon. Sign up for our newsletter for occasional updates from us.
Ernst Haas was an Austrian-American photojournalist who invested in color photography at a time it was considered inferior to B&W and left incredible photographs behind, documenting The New Yorker Life.
During his 40-year career, Haas closed the gap between photojournalism and photography as a creative medium. His innovative use of shutter speed added a blurred effect to his images, producing a unique sense of movement. He was the ultimate “Instagrammer” 50 years before Instagram came to life.
This post’s incredible selection of photos is from Ernst Haas: New York in Color, 1952-1962, a book published in 2020 by Prestel Publishing. The book includes his classic and newly discovered New York City color photographs of the 1950s and 60s.
At the peak of his creation, Ernst Haas presented us with these beautiful images demonstrating his remarkable mastery of Kodachrome film and color printing. The depth and richness of color in these photographs are unmatched and they brim with lyricism and theatrical apprehension.
You can order Ernst Haas: New York in Color, 1952-1962 on Amazon, and visit ernst-haas.com to find out more about the artist.