on april 7, 2018, i had the privilege of being a part of the 24HourProject, which calls for photographers of all different skill-levels/styles/experiences to document his or her own city/hometown for 24 hours. the overarching theme for all years has been to capture humanity and highlight the human condition. this year, an additional theme was applied, calling for empowering women and fighting human trafficking.
if you are following the 24HourProject instagram page, you’ll find a few very special photos of photojournalist Smita Sharma and 24HourProject founder Renzo Grande leading a photography workshop for underprivileged girls who would later participate in the april 7th event. really incredible to see and drives home the point that photography is truly something anyone can pick up and at any point and distill his or her own experiences into the art form.
as for my experience with the project, it was extremely challenging but rewarding. i deliberately went with uploading one photo every other hour because i wanted to give a chance for each photograph to have chance to leave a longer impression (and also not flood your instagram feed). it was definitely a challenge trying to pull together 12 photos in a short period of time that i was proud of, without repeating myself, and all the while trying to stay awake and alert for 24 hours (or in my case, 22 hours…took a nap here and there).
i want to thank paris-based photographer marie collin for introducing me to the project, and boston-based photographer cecily delapena and DC-based photographer ty von plinsky for joining me and working with me for an extremely long time while operating on fumes.
here are the 12 photos i shared:
12:58 AM, Hell’s Kitchen
3:04 AM, somewhere between Hell’s Kitchen and Chelsea
4:02 AM, Times Square
5:05 AM, Grand Central Terminal
7:02 AM, somewhere on the A Train
8:15 AM, Lower East Side
10:14 AM, Chinatown
1:15 PM, Chinatown
4:06 PM, Soho
9:36 PM, Washington Square Park
10:43 PM, Hell’s Kitchen
11:59 PM, New York City
and here are a few outtakes/behind the scenes:
I guess I never saw my hometown until I stayed away too long.
Let me preface this by saying that I go down to the DC area quite a bit, whether for family or for work. Thanksgiving Break 2017, though, felt a little different. Whereas previous visits were marked by the mad dash to see as many people as possible, I took it easy this time and really tried taking it all in as if I had all the time in the world.
It’s crazy to think that I’m coming on a year and a half since I packed up and moved north to New York City and yet I still feel irrevocably tied to DC because it’s where I spent my formative years, doing stupid shit and learning a whole lot about myself in the process.
New York City is my present and my future now, and I first moved partly due to the fact that DC was being haunted by people/events/memories that were no longer there. In a way, I felt left behind, relegated to re-telling stories from my past and the only way to reclaim that sense of urgency in my life was to get out and break from the familiarity.
But that’s different now. Coming back this time, I found appreciation for those memories, and and an even greater appreciation for a vibrant and ever-changing cityscape. I love you, DC and I mean that.
[I’ll be working on some personal projects that require some participation for the next few months, so I’ll be letting you all know more soon-ish. Meanwhile, enjoy the photos below as well as a list of songs I’m listening to at the bottom of the post]
San Diego Serenade - Tom Waits
In Care of 8675309 - Lambchop
Coming Home - Leon Bridges
Blindsided - Bon Iver
Left and Leaving - the Weakerthans
I’ve always been attracted to street photography because of its authenticity and the ability to document the small, magical moments in everyday life. Street photography is interesting in that it’s so readily accessible that anyone with a phone or camera can do it, but it’s also so relentlessly difficult due to the fact that everyone is working to capture that one magical moment that both tells a story AND allows for viewers to relate to an image.
For this reason, I wanted to draw attention to talented photographers that have influenced my work. I’m always the first to admit that nothing that I do is remotely unique; I tend to take what I love from each photographer, whether its the style, composition, or subject matter, and mix/remix it into something that hopefully I can call my own. As French filmmaker Jean-Luc Godard once said: “It’s not where you take things from - it’s where you take them to.”
So get inspired and follow these photographers:
1) Paola Franqui (https://www.instagram.com/monaris_)
New York-based photographer Paola Franqui is the first person I recommend to someone if they are just getting into street photography. Stylistically, I’ve always tried to mimic her, from the cold, almost vintage tones to the way she let her subject matter breathe within the tight confines of the city. The best photographs always get you to relate to the subject at hand, to the point where you feel like you know them and Paola never fails at doing this. Definitely my go-to photographer whenever someone asks me who I look to for inspiration.
2) Martha Cooper (www.instagram.com/marthacoopergram)
Martha Cooper rose to prominence in the 1970s and 1980s by documenting the burgeoning New York City graffiti scene. It was dynamic, it was gritty, and it was dangerous – everything that I’ve associated with New York City since I was a kid. Aside from the obvious fact that I’ve always tried to recreate the bright tones of her photographs, Martha has always taught me to focus on the people. There’s a human quality in all her photographs and that is the true basis of great, impactful street photography.
3) Robert Herman (The New Yorkers, amazon.com $35.75)
I discovered Robert Herman’s The New Yorkers in a bookstore and was immediately captivated by the saturated colors he was able to produce. It was like seeing old black and white photos suddenly colorized; the images leapt off the pages in such vivid detail. And indeed, he captured an era of New York that I’m sad that I was never a part of. Like Martha Cooper, all his images contributed to how I had envisioned NYC in my head. His work ethic is impeccable too, as he literally shot whenever he could. I pack my camera into a backpack wherever I go these days so that someday I can amass a collection of images that rivals Robert Herman. Looking at his photos is like stepping into a time portal back to when New York was less safer but had so much more character.
4) Liam Wong (https://www.instagram.com/liamwon9/)
I don’t think I can ever pull off the dream-like qualities that Liam Wong has mastered so well in his photos, but I often try and recreate the moodiness that weaves itself through his work. His work has a sense of intensity and urgency; there’s always a sense of rapid movement and a palpable sense of uneasiness. My coworkers joke that my Instagram persona is much moodier than my actual persona, and I have Liam to thank for that. For more cinematic-minded folks, Liam’s work is just for you.
5) Jason M. Peterson (https://www.instagram.com/jasonmpeterson/)
Chicago-based photographer Jason Peterson deals in blacks and whites. His laser-focus on black and white photography has shown me how critical it is to get composition and lighting right. It’s hard to develop a distinct style if you can’t get your photos straight or take advantage of the lighting situation. Whenever I’m out in the field, I’ve always asked myself what Jason would look for and that pares the scene unfolding in front of me down to the basics. Getting the basics right frees up more time to focus on the immediate scene and capture that “it” moment.
So there you go. They certainly aren’t my only influences but they are the photographers that I look to when I need a jolt of inspiration. You can see a lot of their styles in my photography and I try to pay homage to each of them without ripping them off completely. Whatever you do, it’s important to pull from what speaks to you.
I would argue that originality on its own is non-existent and the much more worthy goal is focusing on authenticity. Authenticity exhibits everything that is genuine about your work and allows for others to see the passion that you have for the subject. It’s what keeps me going and it’s what I keep an eye out for in other photographers as well. So go ahead, embrace everything and everyone that inspires you, and apply your own creativity to the mix.