A season in the city
Bright sunlight encircles a man as he walks through the 9/11 Empty Sky memorial, across from a view of lower Manhattan and the One World Trade Center in New York.
The photograph was taken as part of a personal project by Reuters photographer Gary Hershorn, who spent time between the first day of spring and the end of summer looking at people and light in the city, and trying to capture their interaction through his street photography.
'New York is a city that begs you to carry a camera every minute of every day'
I think it can be said, all of us can look back at ourselves and recall specific moments that shaped the direction our lives went in. For me I can remember two such moments that even now, years later, seem like they happened just yesterday.
The first was as a nine-year-old when I attended my first NHL hockey game in Toronto. I will never forget entering the temple of hockey called Maple Leaf Gardens, walking along corridors that were lined with large photographs of all the great players and then down a darkened hallway towards a bright light that opened up into the bowl of the arena and the view of the ice surface. I remember thinking this has to be the brightest place on earth as the TV lights shone on the white ice and my heroes, the players, as they warmed up for the game.
Looking back I can only think this one moment has, in some way, subconsciously influenced me in the choice I made for a career, that being, a professional photographer for the past 35 years.
The second happened in 1974 when as a 16 year old I made my first trip to New York City. Driving into the city from New Jersey, my first sight of the New York skyline has never left me. The “wow” factor of seeing the tall buildings in front of me instantly made me think this was a place I had to get to know and someday live in. It only took 31 years to make that happen.
Having now lived in the New York area for nine years I am not sure there is a more exciting, picturesque, photogenic or beautifully lit city to spend time in. New York is a city that begs you to carry a camera every minute of every day, which of course I do. When you walk the streets of New York, you never know what awaits you with every corner you turn.
One of the most amazing things about New York is the light. No matter what time of day, you will find shafts of light that stream to the pavement either through narrow passage ways between buildings or from the sun reflecting off glass towers illuminating areas of the streets and sidewalks from angles opposite from where the sun is shinning. Light bounces around the canyons of the city like no place I have ever seen.
For years I had been influenced by the masters of photography who photographed this city in black and white in the 1920s, 30s and 40s printing their pictures to show off how beautiful the light really is. As a photographer, I prefer to show off the city in all its glorious color. At no time is this light better than in the summer when the sun beats down on the city for about 16 hours usually ending the day with an incredible sunset. I don’t know why but sunsets in New York are simply magical.
I live in Hoboken, New Jersey so I am spoiled being able on any given day to make the short walk to the Hudson River and watch either the sun rise behind the tall towers or be entertained by a show of color like no other when the sun sets on the city. No matter how many times I see the sun set on New York the color looks different. I wish I had a better understanding why the atmosphere gives us such an incredible light show but really it doesn’t matter, it just matters to capture what I see with a camera.
Once in the city, there are endless places to capture New Yorkers doing what they do in the summer. Working in Times Square has given me an appreciation of just how many people on summer vacation pass through the corner of Broadway and 42nd Street. 42nd Street is a study in itself with a mix of tourists constantly looking skyward and locals heading to work with both walking this street as the sun shoots directly down it during both the morning and evening commutes. It is literally impossible to not shoot a picture everyday as I walk to and from our office along 42nd Street from 8th Avenue.
I spend a lot of time downtown in New York, as it is my favorite part of the city. Moving from Union Square to Soho to Lower Manhattan then back north along the Hudson River up through the West Village, along the Highline and into the meatpacking district is a wealth of opportunity for a photographer looking to show off the beauty of the city.
No matter what, it is important to constantly take a different route when walking to and from work. Walking the same streets at the same time of day will keep you from seeing something different. It is amazing to see how altering a walk by a single block will reveal about New York what you have never seen before.
The elements I am constantly on the look out for are shape, form, strong lines and a silhouette of a person. Almost all of the pictures I take and publish on my Instagram feed have a silhouette rather then a recognizable person.
Someone once left a comment on a picture asking me why my pictures do not for the most part have faces and the only answer I can give is I don’t want a face to distract from the beauty of the city.
Each month I am also on a mission to try and take the perfect photo of the full moon rising over the skyline of the city. I seem to be on a never-ending quest to match the brightness of the moon to the perfect twilight glow of the city in the summer months. More times then not though, my efforts are thwarted by dreaded cloud cover.
While many New Yorkers simply try their best to get out of the city in the summer by saying it is simply too hot a place to spend time in, I like to think of the summer as the time of the year that New York photographs best. Long days of sun, combined with heat and humidity change the look of the light and the look of the skyline making you wonder what you will see when you head off in the morning to get your first glimpse of the city in that beautiful morning light. After years of photographing the city I can honestly say I have only seen a fraction of what New York offers a photographer. Luckily there are still a million pictures to take.