“Everything in New York is a photograph. All the things that are supposed to be dirty or rough or unrefined are the most beautiful things. Garbage cans at the ends of alleyways look like they’ve been up all night talking with each other. Doorways with peeling paint look like the wise lines around an old feller’s eyes.” -Ann-Marie MacDonald
New York City-just the name alone conjures so many opinions and emotions. From a young age, I noticed people either described it with voices of disdain or possessed cadences that were almost reverential in tone. It seemed polarizing, the type of place that either scared people back to their hometowns to bury themselves under the covers of the night or a place where a person’s eyes spread themselves wider and wider, their ears stretched further and further and they could feel every canal of their being come to life with each passing moment. For me, New York conjures the latter. Everytime I go there, I am enamored by the throbbing of the vehicles, the manichial pace at which so many people move, the Manhattan glaze sweeping over the pupils of native New Yorkers as they pass throughout the streets, ruthlessly on a mission. In short, to say I love it would be an understatement.
This is why I decided to compose a photo essay dedicated to my favorite city in the world. As a street photographer, simply roaming around and documenting the types of people who fleetingly pass through my life thrills me. I hate Times Square, but I always love photographing the gawking tourists, people who have seen so much of the city in the media and who are practically falling over to snap pictures of the cornea-searing lights. I love roaming the streets of the West Village in the early morning, having emerged from the Village Vanguard in a slightly drunken stupor. I love the 24-hour diners, the pockets of Brooklyn neighborhoods so rich in culture and life, the fervent energy of Harlem. For some people, this sentiment may be eye-roll inducing and I get that. But honestly, the beauty of New York is that it remains ruthlessly intriguing to some and passionately ugly to others.
Going to New York mostly involves traveling to the places that I’ve read about in literature and seen in film. I’ve imagined what it must have been like for Patti Smith and Robert Mapplethorpe, when they left their room at the Hotel Chelsea and walked through a snow-covered Times Square with John Lennon’s message “War is Over” looming through hot lights overhead. I love reading about the New York of CBGB, Basquiat, Warhol, the Bronx fires in the 70s, the photographic ventures of William Klein and the turn-of-the-century tenements still composing the Lower East Side. It’s true, it’s ridiculously, painfully overpriced and perhaps I’m only seeing it this way because I’ve never lived there before. Nevertheless, moments like the 2am conversations with a bouncer outside an East Village dive, discussing the New York of yesteryear, continue to delight me further. I hope you enjoy this photo essay and encourage you to share your favorite anecdotes, stories and photos of the city that never ceases to amaze me with its rhythm.
Larisa Karr can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.